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BJP’s minority fear over Modi dissipates

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The BJP believes this week’s Assembly poll results have dismissed its worst fears over consolidation of minority votes around the Congress because of Narendra Modi’s projection as prime ministerial candidate.

The BJP is now mulling adopting the Gujarat model of giving Muslims more tickets in “winnable” seats for next year’s Lok Sabha polls than it did earlier. By “winnable”, the BJP means seats where it can be sure the presence of a Muslim candidate on its ticket will not upset its core Hindu supporters.

An internal assessment has found the first “evidence” that the argument about loss of minority support was not borne out on the ground — in Rajasthan.

Of the four Muslim candidates the BJP fielded, two won, while 16 of 17 Muslims put up by the Congress lost, leaving the BJP with a “better” strike rate, a source said.

L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj, had argued that the declaration of Modi as “putative Prime Minister” should be deferred until after the Assembly polls to keep Muslims from rallying around the Congress.

The RSS and the BJP weren’t persuaded, though. In their view, dominant Hindu sections in the urban and rural swathes of the north and west were taken up with Modi and his idea of “development” and “governance”. They also believed Muslims didn’t “vote in isolation” and that if there was a general tide of public opinion against the Congress, it was not as though the minorities would be untouched by it.

To an extent, the RSS-BJP’s counter-thesis has been vindicated on the ground. In Rajasthan’s Nawalgarh town in the Shekhawati region — home to a large Muslim population — Congress supporters Mohammed Arif and Abdul Wahid Khetri were miffed at what they saw as their votes being held “hostage” to Modi.

“Almost every Muslim family here has relatives in Gujarat. They are doing business in peace. The Congress keeps showing us Modi’s bhoot (ghost) to frighten us and capture our votes. This blackmailing is not on,” said Khetri.

In Tonk, to the southeast, only the older Muslims sounded enthused about the Congress. For the others, the toss-up was between Independent candidate Saud Sayeed and the BJP’s Ajit Mehta.

Two key factors apparently blunted the edge of Muslim apprehension and dislike for Modi and the BJP. Modi’s decision to not utter the “Hindutva” word in his campaigns coupled with Vasundhara Raje’s “liberal” image.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won 10 seats in areas where Muslim votes were significant. A state BJP source said had the Muslims in Bhopal (central), Jabalpur (east), Betul and Khargone voted in full might, victory would have been difficult.

By contrast, the Hindus apparently voted as one in these places, causing what a Congress source described as a “tsunami of votes” for the BJP.

In Delhi, the BJP believes the minority votes largely went to the Congress, which counted four Muslims among its eight victors.