Vadodara: He narrowly
escaped death in 2002 when a mob torched his house in a Vadodara
neighbourhood. Ten years after that near-death experience, noted
activist Juzar Saleh Bandukwala believes that Narendra Modi, the
man who allegedly allowed Hindu mobs to go berserk in 2002 in
Gujarat, will win the upcoming state elections but with only a
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is splintered, former chief
minister Keshubhai Patel has mutinied and, contrary to the hype of
economic progress, people at the bottom of the social pyramid are
doing badly. Plus, there is the communal divide, says Bandukwala,
who believes that the elections next month will be tantalisingly
"The elections in Gujarat in December will be a close fight.
Contrary to popular public perception, there will be no sweeping
majority for Modi," Bandukwala, a former physics professor from
M.S. University, told IANS in an interview.
"Keshubhai Patel has mutinied. He could well split the Patel vote
(19 percent of Gujarat's population). The Congress itself is
trying to woo the Patels. In their latest cabinet reshuffle, they
made Dinsha Patel a cabinet minister. So, who knows," he said,
referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday elevating Dinsha
Patel to cabinet rank.
Bandukwala, 68, who has also been president of the Gujarat wing of
the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), added that the
economic situation could also prove to be factor for Modi - held
up as a model chief minister by some for propelling the state
towards prosperity but also believed to be responsible for the
2002 Gujarat riots that saw 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, being
"Contrary to the 'Vibrant Gujarat' hype that Modi has built up in
the last decade, the economic situation for those at the bottom in
the state is very bad. But it has been masked by heavy communal
polarisation. One does not know how poor Hindus will vote in this
election. Much also depends on the Dalit community vote," the
veteran activist added.
And how will Muslims in Gujarat vote in this election?
"With the exception of a tiny fragment, they will not vote for
Modi. Only Bohras may vote for him since they have mercantile
concerns," Bandukwala, who has been one of the most articulate
Muslim voices in Gujarat, asserted.
So does that mean that Muslims will vote en masse for the
"Much depends on how the Congress will react. They have not
cultivated Gujarat's Muslims till now," he said, blaming Sonia
Gandhi's close aide Ahmed Patel who he believes can be held
responsible for either a "general or a Muslim leadership" to
evolve in the Congress in Gujarat.
"There is an absence of elected Muslim leadership in Gujarat. So
Muslims feel they don't have a voice."
Bandukwala dismisses the recent meeting between British High
Commissioner James Bevan and Modi in Gandhinagar as of no real
significance. Britain had maintained a 'no contact' policy with
Modi after the riots.
"It is nothing really. Britain requires business as its economy
has gone kaput. Gujarati Hindus are a powerful community there.
They have taken advantage of the circumstances. But still, I am
not worried as Britain is no longer top dog. I would be much more
worried if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton embrace Modi."
Asked what would be the foremost demand of Gujarat's Muslims if
the Congress came to power, Bandukwala told IANS: "We only want
security. We do not want a repeat of 2002, either in Gujarat or in
the rest of the country.
"By god's grace, we (Gujarati Muslims) have been able to recover
from 2002. We can never forget that leaders like Advani and
Vajpayee remained silent in 2002. We only want that 2002 should
not happen again."
And will Modi's removal from power help speed up the delivery of
justice in the riot cases?
"Frankly, it does not matter who comes to power. In these 11, we
have managed to get justice. But much remains to be done. And we
will get there one day."
(Rajat Ghai can
be contacted at email@example.com)