The Congress, accused of resorting to soft Hindutva to counter the BJP in the Rajasthan assembly elections, fielded more than a dozen Muslim candidates in the state. And the gamble paid off, at least to some extent.
Seven of 15 Muslim candidates fielded by the party won, while the BJP's sole minority pick -- Yoonus Khan -- was defeated by Congress heavyweight Sachin Pilot by a margin of 54,179 votes in Tonk. Mr Khan had been brought in at the last moment at former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's insistence.
Two Muslim candidates fielded by the Congress from Jaipur won, indicating that the Hindutva factor may no longer be working all that well for the BJP on the ground anymore. While Amin Kazagi defeated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh heavyweight Mohan Lal Gupta by 71,189 votes in Kishanpole, former BJP Mayor Ashok Parnami lost to little-known Rafeeq Khan in Aadarsh Nagar by 88,541 votes. Mr Parnami had served as the state BJP president from February 2014 to April 2018.
Pokhran, considered one of the most polarised seats in the state, also saw Congress candidate Saleh Mohammad sail to a comfortable 82,964-vote win against godman-politician Mahant Pratap Puri.
The other Congress-backed Muslim candidates who won in the Rajasthan election are Danish Abrar from Sawai Madhopur; Ameen Khan from Sheo; Zahida Khan from Kaman; and Hakam Khan from Fatehpur.
Election campaigning in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh became a very polarising affair amid the Ram temple controversy, with the BJP enlisting leaders such as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for its rallies. At a rally in Bhopal, Mr Adityanath targeted Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath and said: "Keep your Ali, Bajrang Bali is enough for us."
While Ali is revered by Muslims as Prophet Mohammad's successor, Bajrang Bali is another name for the Hindu god Hanuman.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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