Municipality polls: BJP Muslim candidates sweep Salaya

Salaya, a small Muslim-majority town in Jamnagar district of the Saurashtra region, gave the BJP a pleasant surprise Tuesday by throwing out the Congress completely after some 25 years, since this municipality came into being.

Not only has the BJP captured all 27 seats of the municipality, 24 of these are Muslims fielded by the saffron party for the first time. So far, the BJP used to field Hindus in this municipality.

The town in the coastal district is part of the Khambhaliya constituency which was won by Congress turncoat Poonam Madam, who got a BJP ticket hours after she switched from the Congress in the December Assembly elections.

Even in south Gujarat at least two Muslim candidates fielded by the BJP for the first time won.

Salaya recorded just 46.47 per cent voter turnout, the lowest in the state in this election. Salaya was also the only municipality where women turned out in larger numbers (57.06 per cent) than men (36.73 per cent) of the 16,108 voters, which is the lowest in the district.

The BJP won 47 of the 75 nagarpalikas whose results were declared on Tuesday. Polling was held on Sunday for 76 nagarpalikas of which the results of Bhachau in Kutch district were withheld.

"Going by the latest available figures, the BJP had fielded 140 Muslim candidates in these elections, of whom 85 have won, which is an impressive figure," said Gujarat BJP Laghumati Morcha president Sufi Mahebub Ali Bawa Chishti. He said most of the nagarpalikas were in Saurashtra region where Muslims helped the BJP win.

According to Kadar Salot, general secretary of the BJP's Pradesh Minority Morcha, 49 Muslims won on BJP tickets from Saurashtra and Kutch. Apart from Salaya, Muslims won in Kodinar (8), Manavadar (1), Vanthali (1) and Visavadar (1) of Junagadh district, Rajula (3) in Amreli district, Talaja (2) in Bhavnagar district and Dhrol (1) in Jamnagar district.

"In four nagarplikas in south Gujarat, eight out of 10 Muslim candidates have won," Chishti said. The winners in south Gujarat are in Valsad (three out of five Muslims fielded), Songadh and Dharampur (two out of two in each nagarpalika) and Pardi, where the sole Muslim candidate has won, he added.

Salaya has 98 per cent Muslims and most of them belong to the Wagher sub-community. The other three BJP winners include a Dalit. Four were declared elected unopposed.

According to Chishti, in earlier in local body elections, the BJP had fielded 325 Muslim candidates, 192 of whom had won.

Pardi's lone Muslim candidate Muazzam Ansari, who won, said, "Muslims were traditional voters of the Congress but in the recent nagarpalika and assembly elections, we have found that they are shifting to the BJP. Voters had to choose from two Muslims, one each from the Congress and the BJP. They put their faith in the development of Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi. And for that, they have voted for me."

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