Gujarat Assembly polls: Seat with the highest minority population speaks in favour of the Congress

Minority dominated Khadia-Jamalpur looks all set to embrace the Congress

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter


Khadia-Jamalpur – an Assembly seat in Ahmedabad where 65 per cent of the population belongs to the minority community - seems ready to embrace the change. Tired of divisive politics, not only Mulslims but the Hindus here speak in favour of the Congress. Analysts feel that the change in the mood here reflects what people think in other parts of the state

It is a rare spectacle when you see a political party office closed at the peak of the campaign, just two days before the polling day. When you find one, that too in Ahmedabad, an old bastion of the BJP, it is perhaps an indication of a foregone conclusion that BJP is on a sticky wicket.

Located at the centre of the market in Khadia side of the Khadia-Jamalpur Assembly seat, the BJP office wore a deserted look on a Sunday afternoon. Only a few yawning older people were sitting on a fixed bench in front of BJP office.

It was a disheartening experience for a journalist – who travelled more than thousand kilometers in search of stories – to see that there were no flags, no posters, and no banners featuring Modi or the BJP in the area which is densely populated by Hindus.

When asked about the incumbent BJP MLA Bhushan Bhatt, older people said that the MLA has left for campaigning a few hours ago. However, they could not say where. An uneasy calm ran through the bylanes and alleys of Khadia. Most of the people, whom this correspondent met, denied to speak about the election.

Contrary to Khadia, located just across the road, the Jamalpur side of the constituency wore a completely different look. Densely populated with the Chhipa community, the locality was abuzz with the election prattle. Everyone from a businessman to a shopkeeper, from a tailor to a butcher was keen to speak about the election.

Posters, stickers featuring Congress candidate Imran Yusufbhai Khedawala were hanging on the walls in many places. Hoisted atop every third house, tilted flags of the Congress party are enough to decode the mood of the constituency.

Connecting the old city to the new town with a bridge on the Sabarmati River, the constituency is a perfect example of the ghettoisation of the Muslim population in the state, which has taken place over decades under BJP rule. While Muslim population mostly involved in menial jobs live in Jamalpur, Hindus reside on the Khadia side.

Traditionally a strong hold of the Congress party, the constituency gave a surprising result in the 2012 election when BJP’s Bhushan Bhatt won the election defeating Samir Sipai of the Congress party in a triangular fight. Bhushan Bhatt got 48000 votes while Samir Sipai bagged around 42000 votes. Another candidate, Sabirbhai Kabliwala, secured third position with more than 30000 votes.

Coming from an RSS family is the greatest virtue of Bhushan, according to the locals. His father Ashok was also a BJP MLA. Before that his grandmother Sharda Ben was given the ticket by BJP.

But, this time it is becoming increasingly difficult for the BJP to hold the seat as there is only one Muslim candidate in the fray, says Firaq who runs a garment factory in the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

“Since Muslim votes got divided in the last election, BJP won. But this time we are united. Chhipa community hold the key to the Assembly, and we have decided that 22 years of misrule should be over now, he added while saying that Muslims make 65 per cent of the total population in Khadia-Jamalpur Assembly seat which has the highest percentage of Muslims in the state. Congress will easily win the election here by a margin of 30000 votes, he claimed.

Jamal, a cloth producer by profession, is equally optimistic about the change in the air. His sole will is to see the BJP out of power.

“GST played a major role in people drifting away from the BJP. We do not get rebate in time despite following the deadline. The 18 per cent tax has broken the back bone of our business. Why should anyone – Muslims or Hindus - vote for the BJP,” he asks.

What Jamal said was echoed by Jayendra Bhai Shah who is a salesman by profession but he likes to introduce himself as an aware citizen of the country. A neighbor of BJP MLA Bhushan Bhatt, Shah lives in Khadia market but he keeps an eye on the developments taking place on the other side.

“Imran listens to us. Many of us will vote for him,” he said. For Shah who comes from the community from which national president of the BJP, Amit Shah,

does not consider Amit Shah a true Jain. He thinks Amit Shah was instrumental in the Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002, in connection with which Maya Kodnani was arrested as the main accused.

“In Jainism, to incite others to commit crime is considered sinful. Why did Amit Shah not register his statement for 15 years? Was he waiting for his government to take charge at the Centre,” he questions.

“Why does Modi not see the dynastic politics flourishing in the BJP? No one can get a ticket in the Khadia-Jamalpur except a member of the Bhatt family? Before Bhushan, his father and grandmother represented the Assembly,” complained Shah while saying that people will teach a lesson to them.

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