In the home state of ‘chaiwala’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there are several politicians with a humble beginning of selling tea. Now we have a reriwalaa (street vendor) trying his luck from the Dariyapur Assembly segment in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Taj Qureshi is a candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), one of the three Muslim candidates challenging people from other faiths in the political battle for the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly.
For Qureshi, Muslim identity is not a challenge because, as he says, people want a change and will not vote on religious lines this election.
“Inflation rate is touching skies and people are not getting jobs. Voters of every party are facing these challenges. When we go and talk about this, they say they want a change,” Qureshi tells a team of The New Indian.
This election will not be fought on a polarised Hindu-Muslim equation, but will be based on public issues, he says.
His house and a hotel were demolished along with other 350 houses and shops after the Hindu-Muslim riots in Godhra in 2002. His complaint: none of the political parties came to help people like him in the last 19 years.
“I somehow managed to rebuild my house at another location and started running a small eatery kiosk. After that, I began involvement in social work, due to which people started recognising me. During the Covid pandemic, I along with my friends helped people a lot,” he says.
Qureshi says he decided to join AAP because it never does politics of religion and instead focuses on issues of public interest.
“We tell people about the works done by AAP in Delhi and Punjab. We also show our 10 promises made in our party manifesto,” he adds.
The AAP candidate believes that cases of corruption and irregularities against senior party leaders Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain are “fake”. “Voters are intelligent enough and they understand this.”
Notwithstanding his poor economic and social background, Qureshi uses technology to project the Delhi model of his party boss and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. “We use projectors and help voters better understand our policies.”