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Gujarat's Muslims Flee Homes Fearing Election Result

The B.J.P. ended up winning 125 seats in the 182-seat state assembly.

Reuters, Ahmedabad, Apr. 13, 2002

"Several hundred Muslims fled their homes Friday in India's Gujarat state, scene of the country's worst religious bloodshed in a decade, fearing renewed violence as Hindu nationalists looked set to win a state election. Exit polls after Thursday's voting showed the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) retaining power, although the official result was not due until Sunday and the main opposition Congress party dismissed the exit polls saying it had won the election. 'We do not want this B.J.P. government,' 50-year-old laborer Mahmood Ali said. 'If they come back there'll be more riots. Last time I voted for the B.J.P. because they had promised us a burial ground. Instead of giving us a burial ground they turned the area into a killing field.' "
"Up to 400 Muslims from an area that saw some of the worst violence this year shifted to safer Muslim-dominated areas ahead of Sunday's expected announcement, Muslim residents said, adding they would return after a few days if there was no violence. 'A few hundred people have moved out . . . because of fear,' said Eliyas Qureshi, a member of a major Islamic relief committee helping riot victims in Naroda Patia on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city. The B.J.P. leads the national coalition government and the election was seen as a referendum on its brand of hard-line Hinduism, known as Hindutva, which could shape the course of national politics into the next federal election in 2004. Some analysts say the extent of a B.J.P. win over Congress, which called the poll a battle for the soul of a secular India, would be crucial to whether the party seeks to push its hard-line stand elsewhere ahead of the national election and in a string of state polls over the next year."
"At least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, died in a wave of revenge attacks after a Muslim mob torched a trainload of Hindu activists in Gujarat in late February, killing 59. Indian financial markets gained on expectations of a BJP win, which analysts said could bolster the national government's efforts to reform the economy. The exit polls show the B.J.P. winning 93 to 109 seats in the 182-member state assembly. 'If the B.J.P. gets only about 100 seats, then they wouldn't dare to replicate the aggressive . . . agenda anywhere else in the country,' Gujarat political analyst Achyut Yagnik told Reuters. 'But if they win anything above 120, they might be tempted to experiment with a similar campaign style in state elections next year and even for the national elections.' Yagnik said a B.J.P. win would encourage a wider religious divide in the state and stoke insecurity. 'They will not be interested in providing the much-needed healing touch,' he said."