Presence of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi poses a huge risk to the BJP, as far as support of Muslim community is concerned. They had bestowed the saffron party with generous votes during the Assembly elections in 2013.
Muslims across the city of lakes, still haunted by memories of the 2002 Gujarat riots, say they will not vote for someone who was unable to stop a massacre of ‘innocent people’ in his state.
Maqbool Ahmed, a 51-year old former journalist, currently running a hotel-cum-community kitchen christened ‘Naaz-Langar-E-Aam‘, feeding 200 homeless people daily at Nadira bus stand in the Old city, summarizes the sentiments of Muslim community towards Modi.
“No amount of forgiveness can absolve Modi of the crime that was committed under his watch in Gujarat. People say the Muslims have moved on from 2002. It is true that we have moved on, but we will never forget and forgive Modi till the day of Qayamat,” he said. Mushtaq Ali, ‘Shahar Qazi’ of Bhopal, generally regarded as the voice of Muslims in the city, declined to comment, saying that he would not speak on a political issue. However, sources close to him revealed that the Qazi was siding with the anti-Modi mood.
According to Ahmed, unlike the Assembly elections, where a majority of the Muslim community had voted for the BJP owing to the secular image of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Muslim votes have now been consolidated against Modi. “The topic of Modi was discussed and we have decided that we cannot vote for the BJP till Modi is at the helm. ” His arguments were echoed by 0thers who were gathered around. As per the 2011 census,population of Bhopal is 18 lakh, of which Muslims constitute 4.5 lakh. During the 2009 elections, 6.5 lakh people from the city had voted, out of which 3.5 lakh votes was polled by the BJP candidate, who defeated his Congress rival by a margin of 60 thousand votes. The Muslims have a sizeable presence in close to seven other constituencies of the state. Observers say that a Muslim vote consolidation may prove to be the game changer in the state.