In Sundays civic poll, ex-addl DGP Syed is BJPs Ahmedabad posterboy

Written by Political Bureau | Ahmedabad | Updated: Oct 9 2010, 08:22am hrs
Eight years after his driver barely saved him from a marauding Hindu mob that saw the Muslim nameplate on his uniform, former additional director general of police, AI Saiyed, is hardselling saffron and Narendra Modi to Sarkhej in Juhapura, Indias largest Muslim ghetto.

He is one of the BJPs dozen-odd Muslim candidates for the October 10 state civic polls. This is the first time the party is doing it on this scale, after a similar, failed experiment in the Junagadh Municipal Corporation recently.

Saiyed is tipped to be the communally-fractured Ahmedabads first-ever Muslim mayor if he wins. Saiyed, for all reasons, leads the BJPs Muslim pack this poll. About one-third of the population in Sarkhejs fringe is Hindu, unlike its interiors.

Its no mean task for Saiyed, who retired a couple of years ago and stays in an exclusive Muslim neighbourhood. Not just because he had scarcely connected or related in any way to the kind of community sections in his constituency.

As he negotiates the potholes on the ghettos unlit streets seeking votes with his saffron-clad partymen, Saiyed draws curiosity, support, derision.

He keeps reiterating there is nothing unusual about what he is doing . No one holds proprietory rights over colour saffron. I come from a family of Sufis, who always wore saffron. Its a family colour of sorts, he maintains.

His party has thoughtfully ensured some presence in the ghetto this timethere was no sign of anything to do with the BJP there in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly pollswith flags, festoons, posters, even a rare and a Narendra Modi mask or two. But that does not help make Saiyeds task much easier. Women and men of the ghetto throw questionsplaintive, searching, serious and mocking. Like, why the neighbouring Hindu-held Vejalpur and Jivraj Park, which too had begun developing some three decades ago alongwith Juhapura, have all conceivable civic facilities while their own ghetto has no clean drinking water, roads, street lights, drains, schools and hospitals.

Until very recently, Juhapura had no bank branch (after the lone one it had was burnt down in 2002) or a post office and remains off the public bus service route.

The irony is compounded by two big shopping malls, which are now all set to come up on the ghettos edge, overlooking its squalor and backwardness. And why, his party ruling the state for a decade, had done nothing.

Saiyed hears them out, retorts why the Congress, too, did nothing for them earlier, declares Modi would soon bring a special plan for them, announces he would quit politics in five years if he doesnt deliver and even quotes from the Quran.

Saiyed says high on his agenda, if he wins, is taking on anti-socials ruling the area.