Minority wind in Modi sails

Ahmedabad, Feb. 13: If Narendra Modi's Delhi dreams needed another shot in the arm, it came yesterday ' from nine Muslim-majority municipalities.

As if that wasn't sweet enough, the BJP's winning tally of nagarpalikas in Sunday's municipal elections included a clean sweep of a minority-dominated coastal town where 24 of the party's 27 candidates were Muslims.

In 2008, not a single BJP candidate won from Salaya, Jamnagar, where Muslims account for 95 per cent of the town's population. "This time the BJP not only won all the 27 seats but as many as 24 of the candidates, all first-timers, were Muslims," said Kamlesh Sayani, the party's Salaya chief.

In the Assembly elections two months ago, the BJP had not fielded a single Muslim candidate in the state, even in minority-dominated seats.

The party has won 47 of the state's 76 nagarpalikas that voted on Sunday, but it's the victory in minority-dominated areas like Salaya that must have thrilled the leadership.

Although the ripple effects of municipal polls rarely travel far, the Salaya results are significant as they have come in the middle of a debate swirling around the possibility of Modi becoming a contender for Prime Minister.

The Modi camp is expected to send a signal to sceptical allies like Nitish Kumar by portraying the sweep as a sign of the BJP leader's acceptability among the minorities despite the shadow of the 2002 riots.

Sayani appeared to mirror the sentiment when he said it was Modi's "magic" and harmonious business relations between Hindus and Muslims that worked for the party in the fishing town.

The man responsible for the BJP's victory in Salaya, Salemamad Bhagad, a 53-year-old local strongman who joined the party 10 months ago at an event attended by Modi, echoed Sayani. "I was invited by both the Congress and Narendra Modi to join their parties. But I chose Modi in the interest of my town and my fishing community," Bhagad, who is the president of the Salaya municipality, said.

Bhagad and his wife Resmaben, also a councillor, have both received an invite from the chief minister. Sources said it wasn't surprising at all because not only had the BJP captured Salaya for the first time but had also made a clean sweep of the town.

Modi can also flaunt another comment by Bhagad. The councillor said he believed Modi was "no longer a Hindu hardliner".

According to the results declared yesterday, the BJP has won 1,151 out of a total 1,919 seats. The Congress won 447. The BJP had won the municipal elections in 2008 too, but its tally this time was higher.

The results, barely a year before the Lok Sabha elections, don't augur well for the Congress, which prevailed in only nine municipalities, half the number it won last time.

Although the party's Gujarat chief Arjun Modhwadia said the Congress won 19, state Election Commission officials trashed the claim.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

IPL 7, GAME 10—Chennai beat Rajasthan by 7 runs after last-over scare. More »

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

... because, as recent events reveal, the BCCI has little intention of doing it. More »

Hope to be fit for next game - Kevin Pietersen

Hope to be fit for next game - Kevin Pietersen

With two heavy defeats at the hands of Bangalore and Chennai, Daredevils currently languish near the bottom of the table. More »

Chandimal axed as T20 captain, Malinga takes over

Chandimal axed as T20 captain, Malinga takes over

Sri Lanka's cricket selectors on Wednesday sacked Dinesh Chandimal as Twenty20 captain and replaced him with Lasith Malinga, while Angelo Mathews was… More »

'A blow to BCCI, could hurt autonomous status'

'A blow to BCCI, could hurt autonomous status'

The Supreme Court prefers that the Justice Mudgal panel further investigate the IPL corruption scandal. More »

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Money talks, but it is in light of this ICC shakeup that the ECB's act of soliciting of another team's coach deteriorates from free-market aggression to… More »

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

IPL7, GAME 9—Maxwell (95, 43b), Balaji (4-13) set up 72-run win. More »

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

The Mukul Mudgal probe committee dropped a bombshell in the Supreme Court on Tuesday by making a sensational claim that it was forced to stop audio recording… More »

Farbrace quits for England post

Farbrace quits for England post

He will assist Peter Moores who was unveiled as the new England coach on Saturday. More »

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Pakistan on Monday reappointed Moin Khan as chief selector and manager of the national team, a week after fellow former captain Rashid Latif turned down… More »

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

IPL7, MATCH 8—Raina-led middle order, superlative catching give CSK a 93-run win. More »

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

Mukul Mudgal has communicated to the court his willingness to take up the investigation and has been asked to specify the terms and modalities on April… More »

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

The former BCCI president says he was "disillusioned" by the happenings at the emergent working committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Injured Bravo to miss rest of IPL

Injured Bravo to miss rest of IPL

Dwayne Bravo is set to be sidelined for at least four weeks due to a shoulder problem. Bravo sustained the injury when attempting a catch on the boundary… More »

NZC contemplates domestic revamp

NZC contemplates domestic revamp

New Zealand Cricket has put forward a proposal to reinvent its domestic structure and allow up to 49% private investment into the six major associatio… More »

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

The class act from Saurashtra may have to rethink his approach to the mannerless format. More »

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

The BCCI is likely to convene a special general body meeting (SGM) in May to replace N Srinivasan on the board's disciplinary committee. More »

Roach escapes injury after car crash

Roach escapes injury after car crash

The West Indies fast bowler lost control of his BMW sedan due to slippery road conditions in his native Barbados on Saturday. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Day of Supreme reckoning

Day of Supreme reckoning

Apex court to decide on BCCI’s proposed new committee today. More »

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

The former CBI Director is one of the three candidates proposed by the BCCI to head the enquiry into the IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal. More »

Repose faith in Indian coaches

Repose faith in Indian coaches

All of them cost plenty of dollars which I feel is unnecessary for a two- month tournament, says former cricketer Yajurvindra Singh. More »

Cook relieved after period in limbo

Cook relieved after period in limbo

The England captain is looking forward to a fresh start after a dispiriting Ashes defeat last year. More »