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And yet, a Reuters analysis of Friday’s sweeping election victory for shows that many of India’s Muslim voters appear to have put aside their fears and backed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has promised to bring jobs and a revival economy.
Alongside the sheer scale of Modi’s triumph, the change in attitude among a sizeable proportion of the Muslim community is one of the most surprising outcomes of a vote where social and economic aspirations appear to have overridden other concerns.
With counting of votes cast for parliamentary seats still underway, data provided by theshowed that in constituencies where the population of Muslims is more than 20 per cent, a BJP candidate looked set to win in nearly half.
Muslims account for about 15 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people, which means that – although a minority – they number some 175 million, making them the world’s third-largest Muslim population.
Theshowed that the BJP and its allies were likely to win around 339 of the 543 parliamentary seats at stake in the election, far more than the halfway mark required to rule and sealing Modi’s bid to become prime minister.
Of the 102 constituencies where, according to polling group CSDS at least one in five voters are Muslims, Election Commission data showed that a BJP candidate hador was leading the count in 47.
In the 2009 election, the BJP won only 24 of these seats.
Modi’s party was even heading for victory on Friday in two seats where more than half of the population is Muslim, and in 18 where more than a third of the voters are Muslims.
‘Vote for development and’
Many Muslims loathe the man now set to be the country’s next leader, blaming him for encouraging or at best turning ato a 2002 frenzy of bloodshed in Gujarat, where he was chief minister at the time.
More than 1,000 people were slain in the rioting, most of them Muslims.
Modi maintains that he did all he could to quell the violence, and thefound he has no case to answer.
His party denies that it has a bias against non-Hindus, but says it is opposed to giving unfair advantage to any community, a practice it describes as “appeasement” that the outgoing Congress party has long followed tovotes.
This month, as the electionto a close, Modi ratcheted up rhetoric against entering India from neighbouring Bangladesh, saying they should have their “bags packed” ready to be sent home should he win.
His comments raisedamong the sizeable Muslim minority in Assam and West Bengal, some of whom felt he was targeting them on religious, not , and the government in Bangladesh said it would resist any attempt at deportation.
Modi kept up his verbal offensive even after 41 Muslims were killed by suspected tribal militants in Assam in violence related to the election.
Yet during most of his campaign, Modi has sought to moderate his image, harping on his record of governance in industrial powerhouse Gujarat to promiseand jobs after years of policy paralysis and corruption under Congress rule.
‘Not a communal vote’
Syed Md Khalid, a Muslim leader in West Bengal, said Modi had changed over the years and become more responsible.
“This is not a vote on communal lines. This is a vote for development and for jobs. We respect the people’s verdict and we think Modihave to be a responsible leader,” Khalid said.
On the other side of the country in Ahmedabad, theof Gujarat, Muslim businessman Salim Quadri agreed.
“We have seen Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat since 2001. I don’t think there is any need for any fear or apprehensions with Modi as,” he said.
“The only thing that worries Muslims is that they are already marginalised and Modi now should take steps to bringinto the national mainstream.”
Yet in Juhapura, a Muslim township of some 400,000 in Ahmedabad, there was no sign of the celebrations over Modi’s victory that exploded elsewhere in the state.
TV channels showing live coverage of the results flickered inacross the community, but most people went about their business in the sprawling district that many Hindus derisively call “Little Pakistan”.
Asif Pathan, ain Ahmedabad, said the had warmed to Modi’s promises of . Muslims hope he will stick to that, and not stray into divisive policies.
“He has said he wants to take everyone along. We would like to see that, but frankly we are not very confident,” he said. - The Express Tribune