Ahmedabad: Facing attacks from both within and outside the party after its crushing defeat in the Bihar poll, the BJP is fielding as many as 500 Muslim candidates for the two-phase local body elections in Gujarat beginning this Sunday.
Shiekh Abdul Rauf, the BJP's candidate from the Jamalpur ward in walled city area says he hopes to prove those wrong who believe Muslims don't vote for the BJP in such Muslim-dominated areas.
"There is peace. Employment opportunities have increased. We have roads, water and drainage lines. For the first time, people are getting employment opportunities, and with the mantra of inclusive development people are joining in," Mr Rauf said.
The BJP which has generally shied away from allotting tickets to Muslims in urban areas, this time has fielded many more candidates from the community this time.
For the Ahmedabad municipal corporation polls, four Muslim candidates are in the fray for the party while six are contesting from Jamnagar. In Vadodara and Rajkot each, two Muslim candidates are contesting. In the 2010 elections, only one Muslim candidate was given a ticket from Ahmedabad.
Across the state, 500 of the 8,400 candidates backed by the BJP are Muslims. In 2010, when the last civic elections were held, 300 Muslim candidates had contested on BJP tickets out of which 250 had won.
"BJP believes in taking along all sections of society. Also 'winnability' and goodwill amongst the workers and public at large plays an important role (for selecting the candidates)," said BJP spokesman Harshad Patel.
The Congress, which has fielded 700 Muslim candidates, claims the BJP is rattled after the defeat in Bihar.
"The party is frustrated and shaken. They fear they are losing grounds and hence are trying different strategies. But its losing confidence of all segments of society," said Gujarat congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki.