Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate C K Raulji was on Thursday leading over his Congress rival Rashmitaben Chauhan after eight rounds of counting of votes in the Morbi assembly seat of Gujarat.
Raulji was ahead by more than 25,000 votes over Chauhan in the communally-sensitive Assembly seat of Godhra, where the burning of a train had triggered one of India’s worst post-Partition riots 20 years back.
Raulji has been representing Godhra since 2007 as Congress MLA from 2007 to 2016 and as a BJP legislator since 2017.
Godhra, where communal fissures still persist and where voting takes place largely on religious lines, has around 2,79,000 voters. Of these, 72,000 are in the Muslim-dominated area.
Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Rajeshbhai Patel and All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)'s Shabbir Kachba are also in the fray.
The 2022 Gujarat Assembly elections concise with 20 years of post-Godhra pogrom where at least 1000 Muslims had been killed across the state following the burning of Sabarmati express where 59 'Kar sevaks' coming back from Ayodhya were charred to death.
The pogrom and the subsequent uproar in 2002 however couldn't crate any dent in the BJP's vote bank.
Further, the recent release of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case has created some ripples throughout the state leading to the Congress declaring in its manifesto that it will withdraw the remission order if it assumes power. Not only that, BJP's fielding of sitting MLA CK Raulji who said that the convicts were Brahmin men with 'good sanskar' has further stoked the doused fire.
While the Congress says that it hardly expects any ballot-returns from this promise, BJP thinks it is no more an issue.
BJP MLA Babubhai Soniyabhai Bhabor of Limkheda who has been winning this seat since 2002 barring 2007 elections told PTI, “This is not at all an issue in this election. People are living peacefully and even Muslims of this area are in support of the BJP and it’s wrong to predict the Bilkis Bano case will help the Congress through consolidation of Muslim votes.”