I was in Gujarat for approximately two and a half weeks around Deepawali time. My travels took me to interiors of Saurasthra region and North Gujarat but this blog is not about my experiences there, though they could become subject of a future blog.
Here I want to talk about my interaction with a Muslim shop owner in Karnavati, tha tis, Ahmedabad. Whenever I am in Bharat, I am a loyal customer of a laundry, owned by a Muslim person. All these time, I had never discussed with him politics because one is always on his guards when it comes to Muslim vis-a-vis BJP. However, this time it was different. I was at the laundry just after Deepawali when commerce in all of Gujarat comes almost to a standstill for full five days! I was lucky that this laundry was open. As the owner, Ganibhai and I looked at the deserted road which otherwise is a tidal wave of two wheelers and four wheelers, Ganibhai commented on the stillness of time and tranquility. I reminisced about my college days in early sixties and told him how this was a dirt road at that time. That led to a talk about the development in Karnavati. Ganibhai praised the all-round development, not only in Karnavati but also in Gujarat. he asked me if I agreed with him, based on my limited exposure. Then, he surprised me when he said, it was all due to the leadership.
Ganibhai at his Laundry
Cautiously I probed. I asked was it not true that Muslims had a distrust for the leader, that is Narendra Modi? Ganibhai said: “One has to forget what had happened (reference to Godhra and post Godhra riots) and move on. Fact was that Narendrabhai had done wonderful work for all. I asked, “how so? ” Ganibhai: “Before (Modi’s development), where we live, there were dens of gamblers and illicit liquor; our children were becoming hoodlums; there were so many without work. Today men earn honest money, even though they may be hawkers on the street. Our girls now aspire for education and some of them come in the first ten in Board examinations.” So what about Congress? Ganibhai: “They have used Muslims as pawns:” I asked him if that meant he was going to vote for BJP. His answer was an emphatic Yes and for a good measure he added, “I am a BJP man.”
I came home digesting what I had heard. I realized that up until now I had heard stories of Muslims coming on board with BJP from BJP leaning friends only. But today, I had heard it from the source. I decided that I should write a blog on this and for that I needed Ganibhai’s photo. So, next day I went to the shop and explained to him that I was going to write an article on Gujarat election from USA and wanted his photograph. He was very glad to hear that and I clicked away.
Thank you, Ganibhai.
Gaurang G. Vaishnav