Gujarat election 2012: Deeply divided by religion, Godhra braces for 2nd phase poll

Godhra

A decade after Godhra provided the spark that ignited almost the whole of Gujarat into a communal cauldron, this relatively underdeveloped constituency in the prosperous state remains deeply divided along religious lines.

Going to poll in the second phase on December 17, the Muslims, who have a large presence among the 2.13 lakh electorate, are still not ready to forget and forgive the 2002 communal carnage, notwithstanding Chief Minister Narendra Modi's much publicised "Sadbhavna Mission" and numerous other overtures to woo them.

Amid the seemingly unbridgeable chasm, voters of this constituency, nearly 150 km from capital Gandhinagar, will decide the fate of eight candidates, including sitting Congress MLA C K Raulji who has thrice won the seat in 1990, 1995 and 2007, contesting as Janata Dal, BJP and Congress nominee respectively.

He is locked in a triangular fight with BJP's Praveensinh Chauhan, son of sitting MP from Panchmahal, Prabhatsinh Chauhan. Praveensinh is a political novice and is contesting an election for the first time.

Also in the fray is Girwatsinh Solanki of Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP), a BJP breakaway faction headed by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

Though poll watchers are not giving independent candidate Rameshbhai Patel much of a chance, the realtor from Surat, a moneybag, is also in the fray, banking on the politically influential Patel votes.

The Muslims, with nearly 45,000 votes, have been exercising their franchise, almost en bloc, for Congress since 1962 when the first Assembly polls were held after bifurcation of Bombay Presidency into Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Congress candidates have won the seat in five of the 11 Assembly elections held in the state. However, Muslim candidates have bagged the seat only four times with Abdulrahim Ismail Khalpa alone winning in 1975, 1980 and 1985.

Four Muslims had filed their papers as independent candidates this time too but all of them withdrew at the last moment.

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