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BJP and Gujarati Muslims

mere tokenism or Muslims inclined towards it now?

By Mohd. Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net

In recent times Narendra Modi and BJP’s image of anti-Muslim in Gujarat seems fading a little. It is due to the various steps taken by Narendra Modi cautiously getting nearer if not closer to Muslims, keeping an eye on the national stage. His well-planned and managed Sadbhavana Yatra was one such step, though many questioned his motive when he refused to wear a skull cap offered by a Muslim.

Narendra Modi knows he cannot win the top post of the nation without taking second largest community into confidence. So Mr. Modi’s public relation machinery at the national level is working steadily to make the image of Narendra Modi man of all communities including minorities.

So the much proposed Muslim inclination towards Narendra Modi is reality or just a propaganda as is his ‘vikas’ (development) rhetoric.

Muslims in Gujarat were saddened by the move of BJP when they didn’t allot any election ticket to the Muslim community even after Modi’s Sadbhavana. But Asifa Khan Pathan a new charming entry in the list of BJP Muslim faces believes that Sadbhavana is something more than just election ticket allocation.

Asifa Khan former Congress spokesperson who joined BJP just three months back said, BJP is not shying away from Muslims on political grounds, and election ticket allocation cannot be a yardstick to judge the party’s stand on Muslim issues. To make her point Ms. Khan said in the recently conducted local bodies’ elections more than 200 Muslims were elected on BJP’s tickets, she claims it was highest number even compared to the Congress.

Ms. Asifa Khan said Congress was totally insensitive towards Muslim issues, and their elected representatives didn’t even care to solve the basic problem such as vaccinations. She claimed that Congress party took Muslim support for granted. Whereas she said that BJP elected representatives were active in solving community problems and it was one of her reasons to quit the Congress.

She also said for 20 years she got the opportunity to know the party from inside, and she found it totally Delhi-centric where local leaders has no say in the party, and even its senior leaders are arrogant in their approach. Now on the other hand she said that in BJP state leaders feel no discrimination from central leaders.

On asking about the 2002 Anti-Muslim riots and the role of BJP, Ms. Asifa Khan who has also been a journalist said riots have taken place even before 2002, when Congress was in power. “In my reporting experience I had seen the horror of 1990 riots, and the political instability in the congress regime. It was the time when even a road accident was reason good enough to clamp the curfew.” She said.

Muslims in BJP campaign rally. [TCN Photo]

Now in BJP regime under Narendra Modi according to Ms. Asifa Khan there is a political stability and total control on law and order. Ms. Khan also said apart from controlling law and order, and providing steady development for every community, she said Narendra Modi has done much for minority community also, by reforming Hajj Committee and reorganizing defunct Wakf Board by allotting them powers of independent corporations.

Did Ms. Khan join BJP because she was fed up with Congress as there was no other third option? Ms. Asifa Khan said there is no question of third choice, because she claims she was inspired by the development work of Narendra Modi and thus BJP was her option by will, not by compulsion.

Now Ms. Asifa Khan Pathan is sure of the victory of her party, and especially two Muslim influential vote base seats of Bharuch and Vagara, on which she was concentrating. Ms. Khan said she is already planning for Diwali on 20th.

A journalist working in a Gujarati daily said that they are two kinds of Muslim supporters of BJP in Gujarat, the one who support by ‘Dil se’ (from heart) and other from ‘Dimagh se’ (from mind). Majority of them are from ‘Dimagh se’. When people are powerful and things have to be through by them, then to get things done they inclined towards BJP.

Imtiyaz Umarji Badshah and Shafiq Ismail Patel two grass root BJP workers in Bharuch assembly constituency claim pathetic conditions in their localities and an urge to have a slice of the development pie has attracted them towards BJP. Theysaid that Congress has always used Muslims as a vote bank, and never cared for the Muslim community’s development.

But they do face opposition from their own community; Imtiyaz whose father was elected a municipal councilor on BJP’s ticket said that people call him and his family a sellout. The major opposition is due to the memories of 2002 riots. Shafiq Ismail said Assam riots occurred in Congress regime, so why people don’t ask Muslims to stop voting for congress.

Imtiyaz on other hand said riots happened in Gujarat frequently but people forget it and moved on, so 2002 should also be treated the same way. He claims it is for the betterment for coming generations of Gujarati Muslims.

Then again they said Muslims are also voting by preferring a candidate irrespective of the party, they said their camping for BJP’s candidate in Muslim localities are getting good response, as candidate is known for his secular nature.

On question of political representation of Muslims, both said that BJP didn’t allot any ticket to Muslims because it was party’s agenda to allot tickets only to winning candidates. But they said Muslim BJP workers are hopeful to get tickets in upcoming parliamentary elections.

Imtiyaz and Shafiq are of opinion that development in every sphere of life is the main contention of a Muslim voter and if they are going to get it by voting for BJP then why not. Imtiyaz adds if a candidate from BJP begs for votes promising development then why shouldn’t we vote for him, rather than a candidate of a party which doesn’t even bothers to get your votes, assuming it is their birth right.

TCN series on Gujarat elections