The 31-year-old Gulmaki Dalawzi Habib makes history with voters directly electing a woman from the Muslim community as chairperson of any urban local body for the first time in Odisha.
Gulmaki Dalawzi Habib, an independent candidate, won the election to the chairperson of Bhadrak Municipality by defeating nearest rival Samita Mishra, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate, by 3,256 votes. The BJP candidate came a distant third with 6,787 votes while the Congress nominee could only secure 1,977 votes.
Of the 108 civic body election results declared on Saturday, only Gulmaki was elected as the chairperson from the Muslim community, according to PTI. Muslim community constitutes less than 3% of Odisha’s population.
Habib, a graduate in Master in Business Administration (MBA), is a newcomer to politics despite her husband having been a BJD leader.
“The whole of Bhadrak town in celebrating my victory. People were steadfast in their support of me. I dedicate my win to both Hindus and Muslims of the town,” Habib said.
Habib said to Indian Express: “While campaigning, I was treated like one of their own. In my personal experience, there is no divide between Hindus and Muslims as was being spread by some people during the elections. Irrespective of religion, voters showered their love and blessings on me.”
There are more than 87,000 voters in Bhadrak town of whom over 34,000 are Muslims. The region has witnessed two major anti-Muslim riots in the past — one in 1991 in the lead-up to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and again in 2017.
There had been a demand for fielding a person from the Muslim community as a candidate for civic body chairperson in Bhadrak where Muslims have a sizeable population.
“In Odisha’s poll history, not a single woman has been elected as MLA. Even Muslim communities are very reluctant to send woman members to fight elections. After the Odisha government reserved seats for women in three-tier panchayati raj institutions and civic bodies, Muslim women are coming forward to fight elections,” said Mohammed Akbar Ali, who was chairperson of Kendrapara Muncipality told The Hindu.