Navabharat Times
New Delhi, 9 April 1995
5. BJP girds up to appease Muslim
Shrikant Sharma

NEW DELHI, 8, April.  After BJP clearly announced in Goa that ‘Muslim vote’ is no more ‘the forbidden fruit’ in the elections, BJP leaders have started making all-out efforts for looking more secular than the Congress and, on the other hand, they are out to have some special programmes to lure Muslim voters.

In this venture of attracting Muslim voters, BJP will depend more upon its Muslim rather than its Hindu leaders. It was quite evident in the zeal with which Muslim leaders were talking on their way back from Goa. While talking to the press, Muslim leaders sent out signals that in the forthcoming parliamentary elections they were planning to work with quicker paces in this direction. This will include public meetings alongwith person-to-person interactions.

Leaders like Arif Beg seemed to be more enthusiastic in this matter and, owing to his over-enthusiasm, leaders from different states after coming back from Goa, have been planning his election tours in their respective Muslim majority areas. Beg’s plan of touring Muslim majority areas in different states will probably start from Haryana’s Mewat region. Mr. Suraj Bhan, former MP from Ambala and Vice-President of the BJP, and Mrs. Kamala Varma, former Haryana minister and BJP’s National Executive member, talked to Mr. Beg in this regard.

Many leaders are of the opinion that Muslim leaders like Mr. Arif Beg would have more influence on Muslims than the moderate leaders like the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Sikander Bakht. In the course of his talk, Mr. Beg does not hesitate to proclaim proudly that he had the honour of defeating Mr. Shankar Dayal Sharma. Sixty years old Mr. Beg is a national level Secretary in the party and he has already held ministerial portfolios at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh.

Mr. Beg’s plan is to make at least a thousand Muslim workers parade in front of party President Lal Krishna Advani. On being asked about the number of Muslims in the BJP, Mr. Beg says: “The parade by a thousand Muslim workers in uniform in front of Advani will be held in presence of the media itself. This is a difficult task no doubt, but not impossible.” When asked whether they would parade in front of Advani in RSS uniform, Mr. Beg said, “Their uniform would be sherwani, which would cost at least rupees two thousand each.”

He is eloquent about his day-dream – “My dream is that there should be a rally of at least one lakh Muslims under BJP’s banner at Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds.”

The BJP leaders will have to face a number of difficulties in order to convince the common Muslim populace about their changed policy. Whatever the BJP leaders like Kailash Joshi and Pyarelal Khandelwal may say, by having a glance at the party history from the very outset, the common people, whether Hindu or Muslim, regard the BJP as a Hindu party only. That is why this tryst of tilting towards Muslims may create on the one hand the danger of its Hindu voters’ defection and on the other hand on BJP’s part this would be a breach of promise. It is to be seen as to how much trust the Muslim voters will place in the BJP.

Joshi and Khandelwal say that BJP’s doors have always been kept open for Muslims, so nothing special has happened which could be called a change in the party’s policy. This is all the scurrilous campaign of the Congress, they maintain. It has been the party’s policy, according to them, that there should be justice for all and no favour to any particular community.

These leaders say that they have been in constant contact with Muslim voters and are trying to clear Muslim misapprehensions. Muslim voters have the complaint that the BJP wants to create a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India. To this these leaders reply that India is already a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, for, Hindus are in majority here. But, there is no plan of action for creating a ‘Hindu State’. The present Constitution of the country is very good, they say, and BJP does not have any plan for changing it.

In this regard it is necessary to study the call given to party workers by party President Lal Krishna Advani in his inaugural speech made at the National Executive meeting in Goa. He has asked them to go all-out for removing misapprehensions among the minorities, particularly the Muslims. It is evident from this that BJP leaders are watching Muslim voters’ attitude towards their party. They know the fact that Muslim voters, disappointed by the Congress and NF-LF, have started looking with some hope towards BJP. Of course, it is a negative vote, but BJP which had thought of attaining power without Muslim votes, has been realising its advantage.

About the reason for Muslim voters coming to BJP, these leaders are saying that Muslim voters are realising that the Congress and other parties do not practise what they preach, but BJP does.

In a nutshell, at present BJP leaders have the forthcoming elections in mind and for that they have, on the one hand, to tighten their grip over Hindu voters congregated under Ram Mandir Movement and, on the other hand, they have to grab Muslim votes coming towards their party by telling Muslims the difference between ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and ‘Hindu State’.


Translated from Hindi.

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