[The Muslims who are contesting the 2017 Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) elections as the BJP candidates. (ummid.com photo)]
Malegaon: The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership may be boasting of fielding a large number of Muslims in Malegaon scheduled for the civic elections on Wednesday May 24. However, the party, which is ruling both at the centre and state, has given them just the party tickets, not the needed supports, more than half the candidates in the fray said hours before the polling.
Buoyed by its victories in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections, and in the recently concluded state and local elections in different states, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting on 36 seats in the Muslim majority eastern part of Malegaon. This in addition to the 20 seats the party is contesting in the Hindu majority western part of the city.
The result is that along with the flags of Congress, NCP, Janata Dal and AIMIM, BJP's saffron flags are atop many houses and buildings of the city and also flying high in the streets and areas of the Muslim dominated eastern part for the first time in Independent India.
However, the enthusiasm with which the BJP had fielded candidates to contest the election in the eastern part of city soon started vanishing as the party refused its nominees the support needed to win the elections.
"The party leaders have deserted us. At the time of interview, they had promised us all supports. But, now the fact is that we are struggling for a single party cap and flag", party candidates said while talking to ummid.com.
They said they had managed to open block offices in most of the wards believing support will come from the party and also made arrangements of workers for booth level management on the polling day.
"All these things require "support" from the party. But, the leaders have either switched off their cell phones or they are not taking the call", they said.
They also said that except the one addressed by MoS Defense Subhash Bhamre the party leaders have not organized a single rally in the eastern part of Malegaon.
"Even the local party president has not made a single visit to this area", they alleged.
A party insider says the BJP believes that most of the candidates are not in a position to win in the election hence the party is reluctant to provide them the needed help.
"Its wrong strategy. The candidates may not win the election. But, they are the flag-bearers of the BJP in the areas which had never in the past accepted it as an alternate", he said.
"They might lose in the elections. But the party should acknowledge that they have helped the party in making inroads in the Muslim dominated areas", he added.
Interestingly, the scene in the Hindu dominated western part of the city is no better. If their identity and faith are the reason why the Muslim candidates are struggling, it is infighting within the party that has made the electoral battle tougher for the BJP in the Hindu dominated western part of the city.
"The BJP here is divided in two groups - one led by lcoal party president Sunil Gaekwad and the other by Advay Hirey. The two could not come together on single platform till now", party sources said.
The BJP is in one to one contest with the Shiv Sena, which is led by Maharashtra State minister Dada Bhuse, in most of the Hindu majority wards. In other areas of the city, the party faces challenge from the ruling Congress, NCP-Janata Dal (S) combine and the first-timer All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
Yet the party hopes that it will win all the 20 seats beating Shiv Sena and also win enough seats in the Muslims areas to have its mayor for the first time in the history of Malegaon Municipal Corporation.
It is learnt that the BJP faced lot of difficulties initially when there was hardly anyone willing to contest the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) elections on the party ticket. Things however took a positive turn after tiring efforts by few of the party's committed workers and on the interview day more than 100 Muslims turned up willing to contest as BJP candidates.
"They had paid Rs.1000 registration fees before coming for interview. Initially they were all reluctant but in the end they looked confident and proud of their association with the BJP". Jamal Siddiqui, President of BJP Minority Cell, Maharshtra said while talking to ummid.com.
Jamal Siddiqui also shared with ummid.com how they roped in so many Muslims to work for the BJP.
"We told them beef ban, talks of uniform civil code and Gau Rakhsha. None of these have anything to do with religion. They are all tools to garner votes and supports.
"This is why the party favours beef ban in Maharashtra but takes exactly opposite stand in the states like Goa, Kerala and North East", Jamal Siddiqui said.
"Unless we have more Muslims in the party, we could not influence its policies and bring a change", he added.
However, in the absence of the promised support and the way it has ditched them in crucial election period, many Muslim candidates who are contesting on the BJP tickets wonder if the party is really interested in the political empowerment of the community as it claims.