Why BJP’s needs to keep Madhya Pradesh Muslims in good spirit
Bhopal: The BJP’s mission makeover to afford a secular image to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proved to be a “not-so-subtle” attempt at Muslim appeasement.
Assembly elections are due in states like Maharashtra. The process of keeping the minorities in good humour has to be sustained in the face of attempts by hardliners like Shiv Sena and other fringe elements to keep the communal pot boiling.
The attempts to discuss controversial issues like Article 370 were nipped in the bud. A senior functionary of the Minority cell Mahendra Pandey told the Muslims leaders to leave the issue to be decided by the parliamentary board and the prime minister. Since the issues figures prominently in the party manifesto there is bound to be a decision on it, says Pandey.
Speaker after speaker tried to paint the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and RJD as the enemies of the Muslims and Modi as the real well-wisher at the two-day national working committee meeting of the party’s Alpasankhyak Morcha (Minorities cell) at Bhopal earlier this week. Madhya Pradesh was chosen to host the event apparently because Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan enjoys the image of a “genuinely secular politician”. The BJP’s victory on 165 out of 230 assembly seats and 27 out 29 Lok Sabha seats established it, at least in electoral terms.
Chauhan who launched various welfare measures in the state says there is no scheme that does not cover minorities. If there is Mukhyamantri Kanyadaan Yojana there is also a Mukhyamantri Nikaah Yojana. The benefits of Ladli Laxmi scheme has been extended to Muslim girls also. The chief minister’s fund for pilgrimage by senior citizens has been advanced to Muslims and Christians, even if just a few months before the state elections. So, who else could market the new improved secular Modi better than him?
State Minority Welfare Minister Antar Singh Arya claims the BJP has won the confidence of the minority community and now they would stay away from Congress. Arya said two Haj houses are under construction in the State at Bhopal and Indore respectively. On completion by 2015 they would immensely help Haj pilgrims.
However, senior party leaders’ lukewarm response was not the only flaw of the conference. It turned out that very few Christian delegates were able to make it. Buddhists were ignored and Sikhs and Jains are obviously not in the party’s minority scheme. The BJP is clearly focused on the target audience. Sheikh Hidayatullah, the state convenor of the Cell admitted that Buddhist leaders were not even invited to the conference.
Union Minister for Minorities Welfare Najma Heptullah, national spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain, HRD minister Smriti Irani and Union minister and state party head Narendra Singh Tomar failed to turn up. Less than half of the 270 invitees made it to the conference. Much of the literature distributed at the conference revolved around the Modi-effect that would transform the lives of minorities.
Party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, did partly make up by his presence and assertion that Muslims played a crucial role in the BJP’s ascendance to power with a comprehensive margin. National president of the minorities cell Abdul Rashid Ansari claimed the minority community has seen through the conspiracy behind branding the BJP as communal party. And, it was seen in the Lok Sabha election results in UP and Bihar too. Rashid attributed the change of heart among the minorities to Modi’s slogan of Sabka saath sabka vikas (moving together and growing together).
There was time when the party thought nominating Modi as prime ministerial candidate could cost it sizeable number of seats in Madhya Pradesh as Muslims would not reconcile with Modi’s ascendancy. Chouhan and his mentor LK Advani generously subscribed to this view. They thought Modi’s presence in the campaign would polarise Muslim votes. Vasundhra Raje in Rajasthan and Ramans Singh in Chhattisgarh also saw little miracle in Modi’s image. It turned out that it was just a skeptical sentiment among some leaders and not an objective view.
The Samajwadi Party’s miserable failure to guard the Muslim interest amid a minority overdrive, the Congress’ disastrous performance at the Centre and the RJD leaders’ inability to look beyond family interests may have driven the Muslims into the BJP fold. Modi’s pre-election performance might also have earned him the minorities trust. No one expects that to evaporate overnight. But, factors like price-rise, crime and fresh waves of communal polarisation will affect the minorities as much as the others. Will they stay with the BJP while the others lose their patience?