Madhya Pradesh Assembly Polls: The Muslim resurfaces in BJP
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Besides attacking the Congress and his rival, Baig extols the virtues of education and tells Muslims how they can better their lot by sending their sons and daughters to school. He stresses communal harmony with slogans such as "Hamara nara bhai chara" and "Hum sab ek hai".
"Where were you all these years?" shouts an angry, elderly man claiming that he had chased Baig since his 1977 victory but could never meet him. Social activist Abdul Jabbar says that Baig had not engaged with local issues for nearly two decades.
Baig had drifted out of public focus following a poor run in his later elections, for various parties. He had begun his political career with the Socialist Party and joined the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1973 before defeating S D Sharma in 1977 as a Janata Party candidate. In 1989, he won the Betul Lok Sabha election for the BJP; in 1996, he joined the Congress after the BJP denied him the Lok Sabha ticket. He returned to the BJP fold in 2003. Over the years, he has contested from Indore, Betul, Bhopal and Khandwa, losing frequently and becoming less and less active — until now.
His Congress rival calls him Dharati Pakad for having changed parties and constituencies. Unlike Baig, who has resurfaced after a long time, Aqueel is known among the needy as someone who comes to their aid when they need him. Aqueel calls the BJP communal and often takes a strident anti-RSS stand. Known for using rough language, he is confident Baig will lose his deposit.
Chouhan and Atal Bihari Vajpayee's photographs dominate Baig's campaign material. Chouhan, who often dons the skull cap and throws iftar parties, has a wide acceptance among Muslim voters, who get uncomfortable when asked about the possible impact Narendra Modi will have on the Madhya Pradesh elections.