Independent contestant for the Coimbatore Mayor's post Ameer Althaf surprised voters and observers alike with the votes he secured. He polled 36,479 votes to secure the third position after S.M. Velusamy of the AIADMK and N. Karthik of the DMK.
Mr. Althaf, a former National Textile Corporation employee, managed more votes than contestants from well-established political parties such as the CPM, Congress, MDMK and BJP.
He lost the deposit but that does not bother him. Pointing to the voting pattern, he says he secured votes in 1,100 of the 1,101 booths in the city. “It clearly shows that not only Muslims but people from other communities also voted for me.”
The reason he chose to contest itself is interesting. After protesting against the issue of ward reservation in the Coimbatore Corporation, his Muslim friends petitioned officials concerned to reconsider their decision reserving Wards 87 and 95 for members of the Scheduled Castes.
Their plea was that in the areas that formed the aforementioned two wards, Muslims were in majority and if the wards were not reserved, it would help the members of the minority community field candidates.
And if Muslims got elected it would help them represent better the issues concerning their localities.
After all attempts failed, Mr. Althaf says, he filed his nomination papers only a day before the last date. “Muslim organisations wanted to convey a message to the officials and they chose to do so by fielding him for the mayor's post.”
He says he concentrated his campaign in 10 wards that cover Karumbukkadai, Kuniamuthur, Selvapuram, Kottamedu, Podanur, Noorabad, Kurichi, Attupalam and Al Ameen Colony. He also spoke to Jamaaths in the city.
“Through 120 mosques in the city, we spread the message but did not campaign.”
He says the areas Muslims and Dalits inhabit in the city have very poor infrastructure facilities. “The residents get water only once in 30 days. Why is there such a disparity? Will the Corporation give the same treatment to residents of R.S. Puram or Ramnagar?”
The votes Mr. Althaf secured has only disappointed him. “I should have got more because many Muslims do not find a place in the voters' list.” His task in the next five years will be to ensure that all Muslims in the city find a place in the voters' list. He also says that he will work towards having primary schools in areas dominated by Muslims and Scheduled Castes, for they are backward.