The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stung BJP cries foul

New Delhi, Dec. 13: The BJP took a grim view of the reported en bloc voting for the Congress by the minority community in Gujarat in yesterday’s elections and said it objected to this “new trend of getting members of the minority community to vote in favour of one political party”.

Apparently stumped by the high turnout of minority community voters in key constituencies, including Godhra, BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra accused the Congress, at a press briefing today, of manipulating the community’s votes in its favour.

“This kind of 90 per cent polling in favour of one party goes against democratic principles because, even within a family, members vote for different parties of their choice. The father doesn’t ask his children to vote for a certain party and neither does the husband dictate to the wife that she must vote for the same party as him. That much of freedom should be granted,” he argued.

Malhotra warned this kind of “strategic voting” — aimed at defeating the BJP — would be countered in future elections, not just in Gujarat but also other states, by the Hindus. “It was strategic voting on a massive scale along religious lines. And it is not a good trend but a reply will be given,” he claimed.

BJP sources admitted “underestimating” the “Muslim factor” largely because in Gujarat, they are not as large as in Uttar Pradesh — 9 per cent as against 15 per cent.

Besides, in the 1995 and 1998 elections, members of the minority community did not show up in large numbers. In some places they even opted for the BJP to spite the Congress, with which they were upset for not preventing the Babri demolition or checking the communal violence that followed.

But Malhotra could not answer queries such as how, in a secret ballot, the BJP was certain the minority community had voted for the Congress. He had no reply when asked how the BJP could expect members of the community to vote in its favour after the Modi government did nothing to stop the post-Godhra riots and allegedly connived with the attackers.

Malhotra maintained that minority community votes would not impact the outcome “which would certainly be in our favour”. But party sources conceded they could make a difference in eight to 10 seats.

Malhotra also objected to the presence of foreign observers on polling day. “According to law, only the candidate and his election agent can go into the booth. No MP, chief minister or minister can enter,” he pointed out.

Kashmir was a “special case”, Malhotra said. “But to do this in Gujarat to prove that the polls were fair is inappropriate as media is vigilant and there were many parties in the fray to scrutinise what was going on.”

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