Just as worshippers stepped out of the Madrasa Shah Waliullah mosque on Tannery Road after Friday prayers, a bunch of people in white skull caps swarmed around them.
Two of them, smiling ever politely, forcibly tried to shake hands with the worshippers and give them handbills.
The worshippers struggled to depart as the narrow street was choked with canvassers, motorcycles and roadside vendors. Moments later, another group of campaigners from a rival political party arrived, further choking the narrow alley.
Soon, activists of both the parties began raising slogans, waving their respective flags and warning the worshippers (read voters) against the rival group.
One group thundered: “Do Ko Dabao, Modi Ko Bhagao” (Press the Option No 2 on the EVM, shut out Modi). The second group countered it: “Musalmano, Congress Ke Bahkawe Mein Mat Aao” (O Muslims, don’t get fooled by the Congress). Soon, the atmosphere turned tense as each group condemned and tried to outdo the other. The hapless worshippers were caught in the crossfire.
They could neither depart easily nor stay peacefully. As chaos reigned, scores of worshippers sneaked out from the opposite road, which was incidentally free of any campaigning activity. The first group belonged to the Congress and the second to the JD(S). They were canvassing in the Bangalore North parliamentary constituency. Tannery Road is part of the Pulikeshinagar Assembly segment.
Congress candidate C Narayanaswamy was there, sporting a white skull cap and a wry plastic smile. He was flanked by B Prasanna Kumar, former MLA from Pulikeshinagar. His rival, Abdul Azeem of the JD(S), wasn’t behind.
They were wooing Muslim voters on the last Friday before elections are held on April 17. Canvassing outside mosques on Fridays is one of the preferred modes to reach out to voters as an overwhelming majority of Muslim males turns up for the weekly prayer.
But two candidates rarely canvass outside a mosque at the same time. The task is usually left to their flunkeys, but this Friday was different. With just a few days left for canvassing, candidates are seeking every avenue to reach out to voters. With limited public avenues, confrontation among rival candidates is inevitable.