At the fag end of campaigning for the Assembly elections in Gujarat, mysterious posters have come up in different parts of the state, appealing to the Muslim community to vote for the Congress, so that one of its leaders, Ahmed Patel, can be made chief minister.
The posters, which bear the photos of Patel and soon-to-be-Congress president Rahul Gandhi, also carry the party's election symbol—the hand—and its slogan for the polls, which is Congress Aave Che. And the message about making Patel chief minister is in Gujarati.
"To maintain unity within the Muslim community and to make Ahmed Patel the 'wazir-e-alam' (grand minister) of Gujarat, we request the Muslim community to vote only for the Congress," the posters said.
Gauging the potential of the posters to damage the Congress' campaign, which had steered clear of communal issues, Patel was quick to declare that he had never been a chief ministerial candidate and never shall be one.
Congress leaders said the posters were the handiwork of the 'dirty tricks department' of the BJP since the incumbent was desperately trying to communalise the campaign and polarise the electorate.
Patel tweeted, “The moot issue is that the BJP is trying very, very hard to divert the narrative from its performance of last 22 years to a divisive agenda. Hence, their reliance on lies and propaganda. But people of Gujarat have made up their mind this time.”
“Putting up fake posters and orchestrating a rumour campaign shows the utter desperation of the BJP. Fearing defeat, do they have to rely on such dirty tricks? I have never ever been a candidate for the CM and will never, ever be,” said the Congress leader, who hails from Bharuch in Gujarat.
The Congress, realising that polarisation of the electorate on communal lines favours the BJP, had kept completely quiet on the 2002 riots. It is keen to shed the image of a party that indulges in appeasement of the minorities, since it has got feedback that this has resulted in antagonising the majority. It is for precisely this reason that Gandhi is experimenting with 'soft Hindutva,' making frequent visits to temples during his Gujarat campaign.
It is felt that the posters, proclaiming that Gandhi would make Patel, who is a Muslim, chief minister if the Congress won, were aimed at neutralising the impact of the party's strategic shift in campaign by projecting it as a pro-Muslim party.
(With agency inputs)