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BJP wins the battle of mobilisation
Amberish K Diwanji in Godhra |
December 13, 2002 01:33 IST
The electoral battle in Gujarat between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress turned into a game of mobilisation on Thursday, with both sides working hard to ensure that their supporters turned up to vote.
The Congress began with an advantage. The Muslim community, which had suffered terribly during the recent communal clashes in central Gujarat, was only too eager to vote. "We will set a record by ensuring 100 per cent participation," declared Sohaib Shaikh, a Muslim community leader in Godhra.
His boast was not hollow. In the towns of Halol and Kalol, which saw massive communal violence in March and April, it appeared that the entire Muslim population was out to vote.
And in the villages, poor farmers, whose votes the Congress counts on, are known to be regular in casting their ballot. Just a few arrangements are needed, such as transportation from their hamlets to the polling booth.
The BJP had an advantage and a disadvantage. In central Gujarat, where the communal violence polarised the Hindus and Muslims, the party had the clear backing of the majority Hindu community.
The problem, however, was that the middle class is known for its apathy towards elections and would rather let their neighbours vote. Worse, December is the Gujarati marriage season. December 12, in fact, was a particularly auspicious day, as per Hindu astrological calculations.
Hardly surprising that Modi, in his speeches, kept stressing that even if the voters had to attend a wedding, "Matdaan pachhi kanyadaan (Voting must taken precedence over marriage)!"
Just two days ago, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, fighting a proxy battle for the BJP, released huge front-page advertisements in key Gujarati newspapers claiming that Muslim leaders had issued fatwas to their community members to cast their vote in favor of the Congress.
All of this had the necessary effect. Gujarat saw a massive turnout of over 60 per cent, higher than the average of around 55 per cent. With the state's Muslim population approximately around 10 per cent, it only means that the Hindus turned up in huge numbers to cast their votes.
Clearly, the fear of en bloc Muslim votes saw the BJP's Hindu supporters turn out en masse. "I went to the polling booth at 8 am (when the booths open) but found my name missing from the list," complained a voter in Vadodara. He said he was now going to the BJP office to complain and ensure that he could vote.
"Every Hindu will vote," said Girish Nagar, a BJP worker in Godhra who was busy escorting voters to the booth and solving any last minute problems.
"We saw this advertisement, which said that Muslim leaders had issued fatwas to their community members to vote, so we too had to vote," exclaimed a BJP supporter in Ahmedabad.
In the battle of mobilisation in central Gujarat, which suffered the most in the communal violence, the BJP had successfully ensured that its supporters turned out when it mattered.
On December 10, a BJP member in the Vadodara office, had indicated that come election day, and the BJP would put all its efforts into ensuring that the people did their duty of casting their vote. "In the Sayajigunj constituency by-election last year, the Congress candidate won only because our supporters, the middle and rich classes, did not bother to vote. We won't let that happen again," he said.