Bharuch, Feb 12 (PTI) The BJP has given tickets to as many as 31 Muslim candidates in Bharuch district for February 28 elections to local bodies in Gujarat.
According to Marutisinh Atodariya, district BJP chief, this is for the first time that the party has fielded so many candidates from the Muslim community in the district.
But he denied that this has anything to do with a rival alliance between the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and Asaduddin Owaisi's All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen.
Bharuch district, with a sizable number of Muslim voters, will see elections to the district panchayat, nine taluka (tehsil) panchayats and four municipalities.
'Of total 320 candidates declared by the BJP parliamentary board on Wednesday for the district, 31 are Muslim, the highest ever in Bharuch so far,' Atodariya said.
Some candidates may be replaced if their nominations get rejected by the election authorities, he added.
Bharuch district panchayat, which has 34 seats, was ruled by the Congress and Jhaghadia MLA Chhotu Vasava's BTP which was formed following a split in the JD(U).
Recently, Vasava announced poll alliance with AIMIM and also held a joint rally with Owaisi last week.
But Atodariya denied that this alliance prompted the saffron party to pick more Muslim candidates.
'We have not selected candidates just because they belong to a minority community. They were selected on merit.
For instance, we have selected a Muslim BJP worker for Valia seat in district panchayat where Hindus are in majority,' he said.
The BJP's acceptability among Muslims has increased and many of them have joined the party, he claimed. PTI COR PJT PD KRK KRK