Curious case of Daryapura Constituency – a glimpse of Muslim politics in Gujarat

By Mohd. Ismail Khan,,

Ahmedabad: Delimitations of constituencies bring slipup and resentment within the parties during elections on the distribution of tickets. This often leads to confusion in newly formed constituencies that would not take much time to turn into a serious battle. This is exactly what is happening in Daryapura.

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Daryapura, a newly formed Muslim dominated constituency has been carved out from Kalupura and Shahpur constituencies, both earlier represented by Muslim MLAs.

Sheikh Mohammed Ghayasuddin

Kalupura was represented by Farookh sheikh, a three time MLA from Congress who rose into prominence during the wave of Janta Dal.

Shahpur was represented by Sheikh Mohammed Ghayasuddin, the most vocal voice of Muslims in Gujarat Assembly. He once made headlines by openly accusing Narendra Modi in Gujarat Assembly for 2002 riots.

When Muslim dominated parts of Kalupura and Shahpur were merged into one constituency, neighbouring MLAs have since become ‘formidable’ rivals, since only one sitting MLA could become party’s official nominee.

As announcements were made for second phase candidates and Ghayasuddin was selected by the congress for Daryapura and three time MLA Farookh Sheikh was dumped. Then Sheikh decided to take on the Congress official nominee as an independent “to teach them a lesson,” he says.

Farookh Sheikh has been MLA in 1998, 2002 and 2007 from erstwhile Kalupura constituency. In 15 years of representation of Kalupura he has earned a very rough and mixed reputation, some locals call him ‘Lutaira.’

One hotel manager in the area recalls how Sheikh seized his hotel when he refused to pay him hafta (weekly protection money). A rickshaw driver in the local nakka recollected how Sheikh once refused to give him money for buying some text books for his son.

But Sheikh is confident of his “land slide victory,” even though he is being criticized on the streets of Kalupura. He believes that his ‘strong base of supporters’ and 15 years of work will prove him lucky the fourth time.

A house which serves election office of Sheikh, as this reporter reached; supporters of Sheikh were busy in chalking out plan for a street rally. Sheikh himself was busy answering phone calls at his election office’ bedroom.

Sheikh, a transport agent by profession, started his political carrier contesting municipal seats on Janta Dal tickets. He claims that the philanthropist activities he took during many communal riots to help the victims eventually brought him into politics.

Farookh Sheikh reiterates many times in his rustic voice that it was he, who has brought back Congress in Ahmedabad and won assembly seat when other Congress candidates lost even deposits after Babri Masjid demolition.

He also accuses the party functionaries of ‘selling the ticket for Rs two crore to Gayasuddin.’ He further alleges that he has ‘managed’ the Congress legislative party chief Shakti Singh by giving him partnership in his building contracts.

Sheikh who served in the Congress for 15 years now says that Congress is of the same ilk as BJP or Parivartan Party. To elucidate his argument he claims that Muslims in Gujarat are angry with the Congress for providing only seven party tickets, because going by the population ratio at least 15 tickets should have been given.

Elections in Muslim dominated constituencies are filled with instances where two powerful contesting Muslim candidates comes to an agreement even a day before the polling, as it happened in Shahpur where Gayasuddin was elected in 2007.

Another influential Muslim candidate offered support to Gayasuddin to avoid ‘division of Muslim votes’ after reaching a ‘settlement.’ When asked if such a settlement is possible? Sheikh for now has firmly said: “No Compromise, I will teach them a lesson.”

Sheikh Mohammed Gayasuddin Hussaini Miya, meanwhile, is campaigning hard to win some votes in the wards of erstwhile Kalupura constituency where Sheikh still commands substantial hold. Muslim community in Daryapura constituency lives in a state of division and confusion. Different constituencies merged together have been under the ‘rein’ of two separate individuals till a month back. Gayasuddin is hence busy chalking out strategies particularly for the wards in the ‘rival camp.’

Patthasheri, a Muslim dominated most under-develop and deprived locality in Ahmedabad, appears to be in festive colour these days with young men roaming in the narrow streets in front of chicken shop converted into a Congress Party ward office. With party banners and ‘hand’ symbols in their hands or hung from neck these young party workers are waiting eagerly for the arrival of Gayasuddin or Gayassubhai as he popularly known.

The scheduled time for public mulaqat (meeting) at Patthasheri ward of Kalapura was 4 p.m. He, however, arrived an hour late, apparently because he was performing Asar prayer. A day earlier he had addressed a public meeting at his core constituency Shahpur Adda.

Congress local workers, who five years back had campaigned for Farookh Sheikh said ‘Karyakarta bada nahi Party Badi hai’ (Workers are not bigger, party is greater), accepting party’s nomination.

Daryapura constituency has total 65% Muslim population and giving tough competition to two powerful Muslim contestants is BJP’s notorious candidate Bharat Bhanoth who has been accused by local Muslims of playing a ‘major role’ in 2002 communal riots or ‘San do ka Toofan’ as locals call it.

Chicken shop turned into Congress party ward office

Living aside group divisions, Muslims of Daryapura constituency fear that their vote will get divided and it will benefit BJP indirectly. In Congress party office at Daraypur constituency congress Muslim supporters are hopeful that votes will not be divided as settlement between Farookh Sheikh and Gayasubhai are ‘inevitable.’

With Farookh Sheikh, not willing to concede his ground and determined to fight back, and Gayasubhai leaving no stone unturned in his campaign, it is ‘Muslim representation’ that appears to be at stake.

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