Gujarat election 2012: Deeply divided by religion, Godhra braces for 2nd phase poll
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"Godhra is a prestige issue for Narendra Modi. So, he fielded Muslim candidates to divide Congress votes but Congress made sure they backed off," says Firdausbhai Kothi, president of the Muslim Ganchi Samaj Panch and owner of Kothi Steel Limited.
Kothi had sheltered hundreds of Muslims when Gujarat burned in communal strife for months in 2002.
"Muslims can make or mar the electoral fate of a candidate in Godhra but this time they stand divided. There can be a three-way split in the votes with Congress, Independent Rameshbhai and, to some extent BJP, being the beneficiaries", he said.
Asked why some Muslims would vote for BJP as the chasm remained as wide as ever, he says "they (Muslims) have forgotten the families of those convicted and sentenced to death for Sabarmati Express fire tragedy. Jamat-e-Islamia collects donations to sustain their families. Money plays a big role in elections these days."
58 people, mostly Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya by Sabarmati Express train, were burnt alive allegedly by Muslims living near Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002, throwing Gujarat into a spiral of communal violence which took months to ebb away and left more than 1000 killed and many times more maimed and scarred for life.
"The Congress candidate is not good but he will win," says Osmanbhai, a tailor, who feels BJP's Praveensinh, given his inexperience, is not a formidable challenger .
"The weakness of one becomes the strength of another," he says broodingly.
Godhra, the headquarters of Panchmahal district, has a history of communal violence. In 1980, five members of a Sindhi family, which had migrated from Pakistan during the Partition, were burnt alive at Muslim-dominated Signalfalia.
Their's was the lone Hindu family in the area and oldtimers say Muslims wanted them to vacate their house and leave.
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