Muslims in Rajasthan feel left out

Like Asif, there are thousands of Muslims who feel neglected and confused as to whom to vote for. The Congress has fielded 15 Muslim candidates whereas BJP has fielded a lone candidate, in Tonk against state Congress chief Sachin Pilot. (Phtoto: Suman Sarkar)

On Thursday afternoon, just a few hours before Rajasthan goes to polls, 45-year-old Asif Ahmed, a resident of Adarsh Nagar, is clueless as to whom to vote for.

He is divided between two choices — Rafeeq Khan, a candidate from the Muslim community, fielded by the Congress and Ashok Parnami, the former BJP chief. However, Rafeeq is not a familiar face and Parnami is already the sitting MLA.

"Congress has fielded a Muslim candidate but no one knows him. And BJP doesn't want Muslims at all", Asif told DH at the Musafir Khana at Jaipur's Moti  Road, where he works.

Like Asif, there are thousands of Muslims who feel neglected and confused as to whom to vote for. The Congress has fielded 15 Muslim candidates whereas BJP has fielded a lone candidate, in Tonk against state Congress chief Sachin Pilot.

On the last day of the campaign trail, BJP chief Amit Shah was asked why the party has fielded just one Muslim candidate, and he replied: "There were states where we did not field even a single Muslim candidate, but we won. Here also we selected just one, not considering his religion but the winnability."

In the 2013 elections, the Congress fielded 16 candidates and the BJP 4. Interestingly, while two of the BJP nominees won, none from Congress did.

Political experts say that on the matter of minority welfare, both Congress and BJP pay less attention, even though Muslims comprise 12% of Rajasthan's population.

"The BJP government was insensitive towards Muslims. Atrocities were on rise. Muslims were killed on the suspicion of cow smuggling. There was no proper welfare schemes," Ashfaq Kayamkhani, a senior political analyst, told DH.

"The demands raised by the Muslim parateachers were also not met."

Senior journalist Riyazuddin Sheikh said: "Congress may have fielded 15 candidates but most of them are contesting from the constituencies where they don't stand a great chance of winning. It's just a number game for the Congress — none of the parties are serious about minorities."

"At present, both the Waqf board and Madrasa board are headless entities. The vacancy of chairman was not filled in either place during the BJP rule. Moreover, although a minority finance corporation was formed by Vasundhara Raje government, no appointments were made."

Kayamkhani said the word "minority" is mentioned thrice in the Congress manifesto. "They have promised modernisation of madrasas whereas BJP manifesto finds no scheme or mention of Muslims," Kayamkhani said.

Political analyst Avinash Kalla said: "Both manifestos are more or less the same. There isn't much in offing for the Muslim community." 

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