National

Modi flatters Gujarat Muslims

There’s one Muslim MLA of Congress who is inching closer to Chief Minister Narendra Modi day by day. Sabir Kabliwala, two-time Congress MLA from Ahmedabad’s Muslims dominated Jamalpur constituency.

Next year in December Gujarat will witness assembly election in which a major part of Jamalpur constituency will merge with Hindu dominated Khadia. However Muslims will still be the majority voters. Thus BJP may need a Muslim candidate to secure this seat. However, at this stage it is difficult to say whether Modi is luring Sabir Kabliwala or whether it is other way round.

In the last one month, Kabliwala has visited Modi twice with delegations of Muslims. The second time he came to meet Modi with Chhipa community’s workers involved in textile printing. Chhipa community dominates Jamalpur area from where Kabliwala is elected.

In recent past Modi attended Kabliwala’s daughter’s wedding reception and spent much more time there than expected.

In recently completed Khadia assembly byelection, Kabliwala was given responsibility for securing Muslim votes of Raikhad area for the Congress candidate, however party took note that the work was not done. Kabliwala’s superficial commitment was considered as one of the factors for the Congress party losing Khadia byelection.

It is interesting to note that soon after the byelection, Kabliwala was appointed in the prestigious Wakf board as a member by Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Kabliwala is a rich Muslim and like many other rich Muslims he is inching close to Narendra Modi. Though Kabliwala and his party deny any possibility of him joining BJP in future, everyone is watching his moves closely, particularly the Congress leadership in the state.

When the Gujarat Congress is in very bad shape and newly appointed GPCC president Mr. Arjun Modhwadia faces an uphill task to uplift the spirits of a dying congress in the state. CM is very shrewd wasting no time appointed some Muslim leaders to various boards.

Chief minister Narendra Modi appointed Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor and Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel and 12 others to the Gujarat State Haj Committee. Besides him there is Congress MLA from Wankaner Mohammed Javid Abdulmutlib Pirzada. Patel may have been appointed because he is the only Muslim MP from Gujarat.

The members are - Sufi Sant Mehboobali Bawa Saheb from Surat, Yunus Sheikh from Surendranagar, Ilyaskhan Pathan and Ahmedhusain Miya Haji Sikandaria Sayed from Rajkot, Nazirkhan Sherjummakhan Talukdar and Rafiq Habib Memon from Ahmedabad, Deen Mohammed Autha from Bhavnagar, Mohammed Ali A Kadri from Patan, Asgar Ali Adharia from Banaskantha, Salmaben Ismail Ambawala from Dahod and and Iqramkhan Ibrahim Patel from Bharuch.

Modi’s appointments to the Haj Committee come close on the heels of his decision to fill up Gujarat Minorities Finance Development Corporation posts with political appointees after a lapse of eight years. even Muslims have started to think positively about Gujarat BJP,Moin Khan, once a CPI(M) worker, soon to sign up with the BJP, explains that the power centre for a religious Muslim is the local cleric; for the cleric, it is the people in governance. “The maulvis can mobilise masses because people listen to them For the maulvis to establish credibility among the people, they have no choice but to get their hands dirtied in their network of influential politicians.”

He recalls how a Sunni Muslim cleric who was close to the BJP helped trace a local slum-dweller’s daughter who had disappeared. “Some clerics help the Congress, many now [help] the BJP because there is no alternative.”

Moving back again, five years ago, as one section of Muslims in Ahmedabad battled issues of identity using religion as a shield, another section had begun to develop a different kind of collective solutions to the discrimination.

They were of the view that survival was possible only for the fittest Muslim - one who conforms to the mainstream majority. Propping up for a survival war of sorts, they began to set up schools and focus on mainstream education for their children.

Almost 70 per cent of Muslim-managed educational institutions, for example, were established in Ahmedabad between 1993 and 2005 - after the two waves of Hindu-Muslim violence.

Remember that this remains a discussion about a very small section of Muslims - most of whom were relatively (that is, not directly) affected by the violence. Moreover, political attitudes in a civic election are based on ground issues.

Slum-dwellers in the old city of Ahmedabad are ready to switch left, right and centre (the CPI (M) to the RSS to the BJP) as long as they get their local corporator to provide their daily quota of drinking water.

Whether the BJP will continue to embrace Muslims at the cost of upsetting its majority target voters in Gujarat in the Assembly elections, will be seen in the future.

“The BJP will always be anti-Muslim, that is its identity. But the benefits it has given to Hindus, say in the Sarkhej ward, have indirectly reached Muslims,” says Shahid Ali, a Muslim entrepreneur. A Congress supporter, he is open to the BJP if it continues to welcome Muslim candidates. Speaking of former top cop Al Saiyed, who contested on the BJP ticket, he says, “I would not mind having a Muslim candidate like Saiyed. At least I have someone of my own to hold accountable for any sloppy work.”

Mr. Saiyed, who managed to get over 13,000 votes in Sarkhej, himself believes that the recent change in political behaviour is driven by educated Muslims and those who have realised the need to be in the mainstream. “If we do not assimilate with other communities, it’s the end of us!” he says.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2011 on page no. 10

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