Till the December 2013 Assembly elections, the sizeable Muslim community in this Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold had backed the Congress, even though the party had been losing since 1989, when Sumitra Mahajan entered the fray for the first time, defeating incumbent P.C. Sethi of Congress. This is the eighth time round that Ms. Mahajan, the sitting BJP MP, has been fielded from this prestigious seat.
However, for the first time in 25 years, in the Assembly election held just four months ago — when there was no ‘Modi factor’— a section of the Mohammedans (as Muslims are referred to here) came forward to back the BJP, “purely on the performance of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and for the local candidates”.
The BJP had then managed to capitalise on the rivalry between Muslim local leaders, as a result of which, in this election too a section of local Mohammedans (out of a total Muslim vote of 2.5 lakh) are sitting on the fence.
“We want change. We are looking at the work of our local MLA (a Muslim) and of the Chief Minister and the clean image of tai (Ms. Mahajan),’’ Qutubuddin told The Hindu in Bombay Bazar shopping area. He added, “We have nothing to do with Narendra Modi”.
Maulana Rehan, an influential Muslim leader who is reportedly being wooed by the BJP, said there was no denying the fact that Mohammedans are deeply aggrieved by what happened in Gujarat in 2002, but that, he feels, is an issue concerning Mr. Modi, not of the BJP.
“If the party speaks for all communities, then up to 20 per cent of the Muslims here are willing to back it. We are looking at the good work of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the image of Sumitra tai,’’ he told The Hindu.
The Shaher Kazi (City Kazi) of the Sunni sect, Ishrat Ali, however, differs vehemently and says Muslims are undecided. “For the last six months, the media is projecting Mr. Modi through advertisements and surveys. We want the media to step aside, and then we will see if there is a Modi wave,” he said.
Aam Aadmi Party candidate Anil Trivedi, 61, a Gandhian and well-known social activist, is concentrating on rural belts. In the December Assembly election, AAP managed to influence the casting of 25,000 NOTA votes. Mr. Trivedi said these votes would convert in their favour. “Besides, a division in Muslim and youth vote will help the party”.
There are 21.46 lakh voters on this seat comprising eight Assembly segments including Depalpur, Indore 1 to 5, Rau and Sanwer (SC).
Ms. Mahajan barely managed to retain the seat by a margin of 11,000 votes in 2009. Inner party sabotage was said to be a reason for this. This time the BJP leadership has asked party workers to close ranks. The RSS also has influence here and the message has been sent across that whoever tries to sabotage tai, as Ms. Mahajan is fondly called, will be out of the party.
Congress candidate Satyanarayan Patel had recently lost the MLA election from Depalpur Assembly segment. Even so, he won his candidature through primaries. Accompanied by his family members, he is harping on the point that women feel insecure in Indore city.
Youth have a huge presence—about six lakh voters, of whom 1.5 lakh are first-time voters. hey pin their hopes on Mr. Modi’s promise of jobs.
Ms. Mahajan is personally well-liked for her demeanour, but her critics feel she could have been more effective as MP. Tai is quick to counter this: “With a Congress government at the Centre, I did whatever was possible. It is only the BJP that delivers on development; otherwise, people would not have returned the party thrice in Madhya Pradesh and sent me to Parliament seven times in a row,’’ she said.