The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Limkheda Assembly seat in Gujarat’s Dahod district where 2002 riots victim Bilkis Bano once lived, beating nearest rival Aam Aadmi Party’s Naresh Baria by nearly 4,000 votes.
Bano was a resident of Randhikpur village in the tribal-dominated Dahod district.
Congress candidate Gondiya Rameshkumar Badiyabhai who promised to revoke the remission granted by the BJP-led government to the 11 convicts ended third polling nearly 8,000 votes.
Sitting MLA Bhabhor Shaileshbhai Sumanbhai of the BJP garnered 68,502 votes, while AAP candidate Baria Nareshbhai Punabhai got 64,083 votes, according to the Election Commission of India.
The remission of the 11 convicts of Bilkis Bano on August 15 this year had sparked a row and turned into an election issue, with the Congress mentioning it in its manifesto and vowing to ensure justice for her.
The BJP candidate, on the other hand, had dismissed Bano as a poll issue. Bhabhor had claimed ahead of polls that Bano was never a poll issue and that even Muslims vote for the saffron party.
After spending 15 years in the prison cells, 11 convicts in the Bilkis case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15, as the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy on grounds of factors such as “age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison”.
On January 28, 2008, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. The Bombay High Court later upheld the conviction.
In one of the most horrific tales of the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bilkis Bano was gang-raped on March 3 that year. She was 19 years old and was pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, were murdered by rioters near Ahmedabad.
Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the 2002 riots in the state, which was headed by then chief minister Narendra Modi.