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Fifteen years later, Godhra is all ready to bury the past — and talk about the future. Few here want to relive the images of violence in the Gujarat town that triggered riots in the state in 2002. They would rather discuss jobs, persistent power cuts and poor infrastructure which Godhra's voters believe are issues of concern in the ongoing state Assembly election. That Godhra does not figure in the electoral discourse or political in the state gladdens the heart of 30-year old Asim, who runs a motor vehicle repair shop here. "I am happy that no big leader from any party is talking about Godhra this time. Would that give us two square meals? No, that would only have defamed us," Asim says. A Congress bastion, the Godhra constituency is caught in a two-way fight between the party's Rajendra Patel and its former member, sitting MLA C K Raulji, who switched over to the BJP in August. Also in the fray is BJP rebel Jaswant Parmar, who is likely to cut votes from both the leading contenders. Patel and Parmar belong to the backward Bakshi Panch community, which, with an electorate of 90,000-odd people, commands the highest number of votes as a group. The BJP, which has not won the seat since 2007, believes the party has a chance of bagging it this time because Raulji has been contesting from Godhra since 1990 and has strong ties with the people. The Bakshi Panch community votes may also get divided between Parmar and Patel, benefit the BJP, party workers believe. The Congress, on the other hand, is convinced that its candidate will be backed by the electorate. Patel, party members say, has the support of the 50,000 Muslim votes as well as from other communities. In some Hindus localities, caste is likely to play a dominant role in the election.
Shanti, who runs a small shop and belongs to the Bakshi Panch community, says she would like to vote for someone from her caste. Like Asim, however, Shanti and Dinesh Patel, a Patidar who runs a bakery shop, are concerned about issues such as power cuts which they believe adversely affect business. In Godhra, election talk often veers around to economic demands. "Whatever happened is now the past. We need employment, because many Muslim boys are only doing petty part-time jobs here," says Hussain Abdul Rehman, sitting outside the MIM Masjid near Signal Fadia. It's business that brings people from different religions together in Godhra, which is broadly divided into Hindu and Muslims localities. Rajat, a 25-year-old man who is at Asim's shop to get some repair work done, stresses that religious divides have taken a back seat. "It hardly matters to me what his religion is," he says, referring to Asim. "To me all that matters is that he is a good mechanic." Congress supporters Rehman and Asim say that the party comes before religion and stress that the Muslim community will continue to support the Congress. Muslim independent candidates have never won from Godhra, and the few in the fray this time are unlikely to make a dent, locals believe. Shopkeepers Dinesh and Shanti are not happy with the state BJP government which, they feel, has not addressed their problems. But the two say they have faith on Modi and his leadership. In Godhra - where a coach carrying religious activists was torched in February 2002, leading to violence across Gujarat - the election on December 14 will reflect different voices and concerns. But the fire of the violence has been doused.