With two Muslim candidates each fielded by Aam Aadmi Party or All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen contesting from Jamalpur-Khadia, sitting Congress MLA Imran Khedawala has come into a direct contest with two other individuals of the same community, leading to apprehensions of splitting of votes.
In an exclusive interview with The New Indian’s Assistant Editor Anand Singh, Khedawala says he is unperturbed by AIMIM or AAP fielding members of the same community and that his direct contest is with BJP’s Bhushan Bhatt, who he won against in 2017.
AIMIM has fielded Sabir Kabliwala and AAP has fielded Harun Nagori from the seat.
The triangular fight among three Muslim candidates has led to speculations that a 2012-like situation might arise which aided the BJP’s win.
In 2012, BJP’s Bhat received over 48,000 votes. Congress’ Samir Khan received over 41,700 votes. While independent candidate ex-MLA Sabir Kabliwala (now All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen Gujarat chief and Jamalpur Khadia candidate for the party) received over 30,500 votes. As Muslim votes got divided, BJP’s Bhushan Bhat won.
Khedawala said that his hallmark has been the work he has done in the last five years and also accused Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM of being Team B of BJP.
He also appeared confident that people of Jamalpur-Khadia will not repeat the “mistake of 2012” and that Muslim votes will remain united.
Excerpts from the interview
Question: What are the issues in your constituency? And what are the promises you are making?
Khedawala: First of all I want to thank the senior leadership of the party for giving me a ticket again from the constituency. I have been elected an MLA from this seat for the last five years and four times have represented this seat in the municipal corporation. I know all the issues of the constituency and the way in which I have worked in the last five years, people know me for that.
People demanded a garden and I got a Victoria garden made in the constituency. Have fulfilled the demand of people during Covid pandemic for ambulances, also fulfilled the requirements of bore wells among others as demanded by people. And I am hopeful that people from all communities will vote for me.
And earlier Khadia has remained a stronghold of BJP but I got votes from there too. My image is of a secular leader and I take along all communities altogether. And I don’t do politics on religion.
Question: You are facing Sabir Kabriwala from AIMIM and you are also facing BJP ex MLA Bhushan Bhat and AAP candidate this time. What are the new challenges?
Khedawala: In 2017, I won by a margin of more than 30,000 votes defeating the BJP MLA Bhushan Bhat even when 20 independent candidates were against me. This time AAP, AIMIM and several other candidates are there. But my contest is only with the BJP and none other.
In Gujarat there are only two main parties and no third party has ever grown here. And the people are fed up with the 27 year rule of BJP and the double engine government has failed here. In this election the single engine government of Congress will perform much better than the BJP.
People are showering their love on the Congress and people are getting connected with the party this time because of the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi. People will vote for Congress in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and others where-ever elections are due.
Question: What do you have to say on AAP candidates, as the party is campaigning aggressively in Gujarat?
Khedawala: I don’t want to do light talks about anyone and people will judge me on my work which I have done in the last five years. And the candidates who are contesting in the election should be able to convince people that they have done something worthwhile.
I have given the account on my work to people with details of every single rupee which I have spent in my constituency from the grant that I received. And I say it clearly that I don’t want votes on the name of religion but on the basis of work.
Question: So it is BJP versus Congress only and no AIMIM or AAP?
Khedawala: My fight is with BJP’s Bhushan Bhat and there is no contest with any other party because AIMIM is the B team of BJP.
In 2012, Sabir Kabliwala contested as an independent candidate while Samir Pathan contested as Congress candidate and thus there was a triangular contest in Jamalpur Khadia and BJP got the benefit of the same.
People are not going to repeat the mistake which they made in 2012 and will stand united with Congress in 2022. And this time my previous lead of over 30,000 votes will increase.
Question: Jamalpur Khadia is known for Bhadrakaali temple, oldest Jagannath yatra, Oldest Jama Masjid, Sidi Sayeed Jali and many other historical structures. So what is your message for the voters?
Khedawala: In Jamalpur Khadia, Muslims and Hindus are well connected. This constituency has Jagannath temple, Bhadrakali temple, Sidi Saiyyed Jali here. So this constituency has remained an example of communal harmony. But due to politics, some people for their political gain sow the seeds of hatred.
Question: BJP has not fielded any Muslim candidate in Gujarat elections?
Khedawala: The agenda of BJP is known to everyone. And I don’t want to comment on the same.
Khedawala had got over 75,000 votes in 2017 assembly election and he defeated BJP’s Bhushan Bhat by a margin of more than 30,000 votes.
Jamalpur-Khadia is a unique seat . Situated in the heart of Old Ahmedabad, the city houses goddess Bhadrakali temple and Shree Jagannath Temple. It’s where the oldest Rath Yatra begins. It also houses historical sites such as Ahmedabad Darwaja, Sidi Saiyyed Jali, and the oldest Jama Masjid.
There are a total of 1.37 lakh Muslim voters in the area. The rest are the 90,000 non-Muslim voters from different communities and castes. The area has seen many riots.
The Gujarat Assembly elections 2022 will be held in two phases on December 1 and December 5. Voting for 89 seats of the Assembly will take place in the first phase while for the rest 93 in phase two. The votes will be counted on December 8 along with Himachal Pradesh.