Muslim votes can go for BJP, but….

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The BJP is leaving no stone unturned to make Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India. They are using all ‘saam daam dand bheed’. They are even taking panga with old allies to form new one. However, the party is aware that they can’t emerge victorious without the assistance of Muslim votes which can seal the fate of 80 constituencies in the country. Recently, we have seen that BJP President Rajnath Singh tried to reach out to the Muslim voters ahead of the Lok Sabha polls asking them to give the party a chance while expressing willingness to apologize for any “mistake” or “shortcoming” in the past. When we analyse his ‘past mistake’ experts said Singh might be referring to post Godhra riots or the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya, both of which had immensely alienated the minority community from the saffron party over the years.

The party with a difference should understand that Muslims also very much belongs to India and they are part of this society. They want to mark their presence by contributing towards the society. Whichever party woos them and help them they will vote for it, whether it is BJP, Congress, Samajwadi, NCP, RJD, JDU or BSP.

Once I was hearing Rajnath Singh’s speech, where he was telling that Media and other parties are highlighting us as anti Muslim. Mr. Rajnath media can edit one or two sentences but your whole speech cannot be edited. You never talk about the welfare of minorities. They are very sentimental towards their religions. Just put the sensitive issues on the backburner and implement some schemes for the welfare of minorities. After five years, I can guarantee that nothing can stop you from making it big in the political arena.

Earlier in 2012, outlining his roadmap for transforming the NDA into ‘NDA Plus’, at the BJP’s national executive meeting at Surajkund, veteran leader LK Advani, who had spearheaded the Ram Temple movement, had said the process would involve reassuring potential allies that they have nothing to be apprehensive about partnering with the party.

“This requires an imaginative re-projection of our commitment to secularism. We should, with full conviction, reassure our brethren belonging to the minority communities that we brook no discrimination or injustice in dealing with different sections of our diverse society”, he had said.

Further, the former Deputy Prime Minister also suggested evolving a ‘Common National Commitment to Good Governance- of tomorrow’s NDA Plus’. Interestingly, out of the eight elements he suggested, three points directly related to the welfare of minorities.

They included complete and earnest assurance to preserve communal peace, promote communal harmony and strengthen national integration, promote social justice with social harmony and give economic reforms a demonstrably pro-poor thrust, with innovative policy initiatives for farmers, landless workers, workers in the unorganised sector, SCs, STs, OBCs and the poor among the minorities.

While all these have been interpreted by many analysts as attempts to prevent Muslim consolidation against the party in the upcoming elections and project a moderate face to woo new allies, the fact also remains that the BJP cannot ignore almost 13.4 per cent of the country’s population (Census 2011), not only to increase its allies but also because the minorities matter in electorally crucial States such as Uttar Pradesh (18.5 per cent), Bihar (16.5 per cent), Assam (31 per cent) and undivided Andhra Pradesh (14 per cent), where the party has a significant presence.

Paying lip service to the concerns of the minority community as against the vote-bank politics of other parties won’t suffice. BJP-ruled states should become role models in the socio-economic emancipation of the Muslims, including modernisation of madarsas, education of children, particularly girls and ensuring proper utilisation of the Waqf property for the benefit of the community at large, as against vested interests and individuals.

Like any other Indian, Muslim youths too want jobs, peace, safety and prosperity. They are no more enamoured by slogans of threat to Islam or with sops such as Haj subsidies. They are fed up with political parties patronising them and treating them as vote-banks.

Contrary to the stereotype image of the Muslims having a clinical hatred for BJP, the electorally proven fact that 10 per cent of the minorities in Gujarat voted for the party is only a small indicator of the deep undercurrents below and the changing dynamics in the community’s mindset. Therein lies the hope for BJP.