How a 36-sq km island has come to occupy prime space in BJP campaign

Residents of Bet Dwarka, the city of Okha and local journalists were taken by surprise as a huge contingent made up of police officers from four districts flooded island of Bet Dwarka accompanied by JCB excavators and dump trucks in the narrow alleys on October 1st.

About a hundred in the next week structures were demolished, including shops and homes and more than two dozen minority community religious structures, with officers claiming to have cleared an area of ​​1 lakh square feet. Police during this period imposed restrictions on movement to and from Bet Dwarka, a 36-square-kilometer island with a population of about 15,000, located off the coast of Okha.

A month later, the ride on the island, where the Shree Dwarkadhis Mukhya Mandir stands, dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is believed to have founded his kingdom here, plus other Hindu temples, has become a recurring theme in the story of the BJPthe election campaign.

Days later, the demolition campaign after the prime minister began to take on political colors Narendra Modi “congratulated” Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel at a public rally in neighboring Jamnagar district on Oct. 11, during the launch of some government projects.

He said the ride Gujarat the “mrudu ane makkam (soft and firm)’ face by Patel, a description Modi loves when it comes to the CM. “People enjoyed building illegal structures on the coast… they were all cleared, in silence… So much land (cleared) and Bet Dwarka’s pride (restored). I recorded statements from the culture vultures, saints and religious heads. It made me happy.”

Simultaneous demolitions were carried out in the neighboring districts of Porbandar and Gir Somnath, and several dozen structures, including a dargah, were razed in these coastal districts.

On November 18, as the campaign for the upcoming elections got under way, three JCBs decorated with flowers were parked at the entrance of the venue of a rally by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath in Wankaner in Morbi district. Two days later, Prime Minister Modi spoke about raids on Somnath Temple by Muslim invaders in the Middle Ages while addressing a public gathering near Somnath Temple in Gir Somnath district. The next day, an Adityanath gathering at Chowpatty Ground in Porbandar saw a JCB on the maidan.

Then, for the first time this election, the BJP raised the issue outside the Saurashtra region with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. at a meeting in Khambhat Tuesday in Anand district. “Our Bhupendrabhai (CM Bhupendra Patel) and Harshbhai (Interior Minister Harsh Sanghavi) demolished the fake mazaars in Bet Dwarka. They were all breaches in the name of mazaars and they were approved, but Congress said we were polarizing,” Shah said. Shah vowed to continue with the “clearance” and underlined that the BJP government had also built the shikhar (comb) of a temple of Goddess Kali in Panchmahal district by moving a mazaar.

Even as Shah spoke of “fake” mazaars while campaigning in Khambhat, the BJP candidate for Dwarka constituency (which includes Bet Dwarka), Pabubha Manek, told voters to make up for the support he was “on the verge of stood to lose because of the demolition.” motive”. He said he approved the demolition “at the risk of losing votes”.

“Even I didn’t know there was so much encroachment… They (BJP leaders) asked me how much it would affect me in the elections. I said that it would affect me a lot, but that it was therefore not appropriate to stop the work. So I said demolish,” Manek said at a rally in Bhatiya village. He urged them to vote for him “in the name of Dwarkadhis”. “I told the BJP leaders that we will tell people to work a little harder for me… We have to make up for the loss.”

During his series of meetings on Tuesday night, Manek urged people to attend Adityanath’s Wednesday meeting in Dwarka, calling him a saint and ascetic “whose darshan was a rare opportunity”.

At his meeting in Dwarka city on Wednesday, Adityanath praised the “bhavya karyakram (big program)” going on in Bet Dwarka for its “purnodhhar (recovery)”.

Manek, who was also present, called Modi and Aditynath God’s “chosen ones” and said people should not see them as mere PM or CM. He added: “Those who want to do good for their country must do good deeds for seven lifetimes. Our Modiji and Yogiji, when they fulfilled punya in one avatar, two, four, to seven, they were told (by God) that you (Modi) are the seat of Delhi and you (Aditynath) take a seat in UP and do good with a bulldozer.”

Manek further complained that he had forgotten to park a JCB outside the venue, and that he should have done so so that “Baba (Adityanath) could know that even residents of Dwarka were beginning to know him”.

While Manek told The Indian Express he was convinced that he would keep the Muslim vote, BJP insiders admitted that the community in Okha and Bet Dwarka that has been a staunch supporter of Manek is likely to turn away from the party.

“Manek will lose a few Muslim votes,” admits a senior BJP leader. However, he adds, “We expect to make up for that loss by consolidating non-Muslim voices, which are decisive.”

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