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Enthusiastic voting in Shahpur
Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad |
December 12, 2002 14:18 IST
It was a sight to behold. People in the old city of Ahmedabad were voting with a passion rarely seen during the polls.
The Hindu women from Shambhuprasadni Pole and Muslim women from the nearby Halima ki Khidki locality in Shahpur area of Ahmedabad had formed a disciplined queue from as early as 0830 IST.
They were not talking to each other, but both appeared confident and the fear seen in this area in March was absent. The police presence was comforting.
"We are voting for our security," most of the Hindus told rediff.com.
"BJP has hurt us, finished us," the Muslims said.
"Here people are pressing the button only for the lotus," Indiraben Shah, a self-employed woman who earns her living by selling snacks, told rediff.com.
Standing next to her, Amirbi insisted, "The BJP can't win. The Congress is certainly winning. The BJP kept us hungry for six months."
Before 0900 IST, Jyot Kanya Vidhyalaya in Shahpur was flooded with voters.
"This is unprecedented. In our area, municipal water comes only at 0800 IST. As soon as housewives filled up their storage tanks today , they rushed to the polling booths," Sureshbhai, a local resident, said.
"Why not?" asked Veena Parmar. She was delighted to get a chance to vote.
"Those who have suffered in the riots know why it's necessary to vote for the BJP. If we don't vote for the BJP, then who will take care of our mohalla (locality)?" she added.
Her home in Malivada ni Pole is adjacent to Nagorini Vad. Both areas had witnessed bloody communal riots last April.
Shahpur is a complex constituency. The polarisation along communal lines, which is almost a two-decade-old phenomenon here, has ensured BJP candidate Kaushik Patel's victory since 1990.
Of the 87,000-odd voters, Muslims number about 34,000. Congress candidate Pankaj Shah stands a chance of winning only if the percentage of Muslim voters is higher than their Hindu counterparts, who largely favour the BJP.
"In Shahpur, each and every Muslim will vote. The price rise issue will ensure the BJP's defeat. Even Hindus are feeling the pinch," Anwar Hussain, a trader, told rediff.com.
At the 16 polling booths that this correspondent visited, the Muslims had come out in large numbers to vote, but the majority (of the voters) appeared to favour the BJP.
In the last election, Kaushik Patel had got 54.62% of the votes while the Congress candidate bagged 37%.
Both parties had made arrangements to ferry the aged and reluctant voters to the polling booths.
Mukesh Rami, a BJP polling agent, was busy persuading housewives to come out of their homes and vote.
"Hindus suffered a lot due to the curfew (in force during the riots). Our workers don't even have to request them to vote. They are delighted to vote for the BJP," Rami said.
For two hours, this correspondent looked for Hindu Congress voters around Nagorini Vad but could find just one.
"Our supporters don't reveal their preference. People are afraid of BJP workers so much so that they take voting slips from the BJP polling agents, but vote for the Congress. After all, they have to live with these people," Paresh Vyas, a Congress polling agent, explained pointing to the crowd around the BJP polling agent.
"Modi is very, very famous. No doubt about it," he murmured.