Caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be a villain for the riot victims in Millatnagar area of Maninagar constituency, but even they concede he would probably win the seat.
Modi doesn't have to mention Godhra or the Shah Alam camp; his campaign seems to be over even before it takes off.
Modi's rival from the Congress, Yatin Ojha, promises to change all this before the December 12 polls with a 'letter campaign' beginning November 30 in this Bharatiya Janata Party bastion.
"I am sending letters to the voters telling them how Modi ditched Rajkot and he will ditch Maninagar too. Within 10 days I will change everything," says Ojha.
But Ojha has a tough battle ahead. Out of an electorate of 3.6 lakh, 3.48 are Hindus and there are 27 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shakhas in the constituency. Besides, Modi has worked as a pracharak for over 15 years in Maninagar.
"I will vote for Modi because I am a Hindu. [The] Congress is not bad but it has never spoken of Hindutva," says Suresh Harwani, who runs a business of readymade garments. Harwani suffered losses during the riots but he thinks that political leanings and business are not linked.
Aslam Khan, who runs a garment shop in the Muslim-dominated pocket of Millatnagar, says many hold the BJP responsible for the violence. "But he is the hero of Gujarat and will win. My vote does not matter."
Mohammed Akhil, a local leader, feels that though the minorities have not been compensated for their losses during the riots, Modi's win is certain.
BJP leader Kamlesh Patel admits that his party "will not get a single Muslim vote".
"This is Modi's natural home. No one knows Ojha here," says Patel, who won the last three assembly elections from Maninagar.
There are 14,000 Muslims and 8,000 Christians in Maninagar, he says, adding, "there are 4,500 RSS pracharaks and 10,000 Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers in the area."
Caste and class take a backseat as the issue narrows down to the Hindu-Muslim divide. The fight is also a direct contest between Modi and Ojha, with Samajwadi Party candidate Satubhai Vaghela and Independent Harishchandra Sharma relegated to the background.
Although the election fever is just picking up, Modi's posters calling him Gujarat Ka Gaurav [the pride of Gujarat] dot Maninagar.
Meanwhile, the Congress has begun its campaign with the slogan Congress Lao Gujarat Bachao [Bring the Congress to Save Gujarat]. At the Shiromani society in Maninagar, a banner has been put up saying that the residents want depositors of failed cooperative banks to be paid first.
Talking about the 22 cooperative banks that have shut down in the state, Ojha has pledged that once elected he will not enter the assembly unless the defaulters are put behind bars.
Prakash Sant, a retired civil engineer says, "People feel Modi is working for the Hindus and this is a Hindu-dominated constituency. Ojha is new here."
Asked about the impact of the riots on the economy, he is dismissive. "There are mostly service people here and they were not affected by the riots."
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