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Monday, November 18, 2019

Since his anointment as head of the BJP poll campaign committee, Narendra Modi appears less reluctant to woo minorities.

Strategic confusion?


SYED KHURRAM RAZA | Issue Dated: July 12, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Strategic confusion | Narendra Modi | Muslim vote bank | 2014 Lok Sabha polls |

Hindutva’s most profound icon Narendra Modi is on the horns of a dilemma. He conducts the Sadbhavna Yatra in an effort to win minds, influence people and offset prejudices but declines to wear a skull cap; he wants to reach out to Muslims and listens intently to issues raised by President of Zakat Foundation of India Zafar Mahmood at the young Indian leaders conclave in Ahmedabad, but refuses to apologize for the 2002 Gujarat riots. He wants to become prime minister but does not stop Amit Shah from raising the issue of Ram Mandir in Faizabad.

Is this a part of an overall BJP strategy to broad base its support or signs of utter confusion within the saffron ranks? Manoj Mishra, metro editor Jansatta, offers an explanation. ‘‘There have always been two schools of thought in the BJP. One advocates that the party should take Muslims along to broad base their appeal, the other is the hard line approach on mobilising the majority community for political purposes. More often than not, the hard line has prevailed. It is self contradictory; on one hand BJP is holding a conference of minorities and preparing a vision document for the upliftment of Muslims, and on other the party is projecting Modi as their leader and his key aide Amit Shah is talking of the Ram Temple.’’

Zafar Mahmood, who posed tough questions to Modi over the 2002 riots and Gujarat government’s approach towards Muslims at the Ahmedabad conclave, had to face flak from his community for even meeting Modi. He told TSI: ‘‘The Gujarat chief minister is trying to draw a balance between reaching out to Muslims as a political requirement while not moving too far away from the stated policy of his party. There is no change in BJP policy and it is sheer political compulsion to bring out a vision document for minorities because BJP knows that the days of 1980s and 1990s are over and no one can form a government in India without Muslims”.

On his meeting with Modi at an annual conference of Citizens for Accountable Government (CAG) at Ahmedabad on June 29, Mahmood says he decided to adopt the direct approach. ‘‘I thought the better course would be to meet him and tell him to his face about perceptions of Muslim community about him; what are their complaints, why is the Muslim voter not enthused by the BJP and by him. The reaction was better than what I expected”.

According to Mahmood, Modi not just listened to him but reacted positively. “Dr Zafar Mahmood has said something and it is thought provoking. It is one viewpoint. We must try to understand others. I want to understand this young generation,’’ the Gujarat strongman told the president of the Zakat Foundation.
Apparently, Modi has found some converts to his cause. Points out staunch Modi supporter Zafar Sureshwala, ‘‘The way Modi conducted himself, I think he took everything very positively and this opens up fresh avenues for Muslims”.

In doing so, the BJP is leaving no stone turned to send a message to different political parties, who could also be potential allies after the 2014 elections. The party is not just holding a minority conference but for the first time has brought out a vision document for improving the lot of minorities.

Some members of the Muslim community – particularly those belonging to the BJP – believe that Modi’s latest sops are for real. ‘‘Whatever BJP is doing is not aimed at elections. It is sincere move to uplift Muslims. BJP has never said anything against Muslims. As far as Modi’s leadership is concerned, we should see the larger picture instead of concentrating on the small canvas. Today the nation needs a strong leadership which can deliver and a leader who has a sound track record. Today we don’t have anyone who is good enough to be prime minister. As far as Gujarat riots are concerned, all we need to do is to read the history of this country. Riots have occurred in every part of the country for all the years that Congress has been in power. The Congress leadership is ready to apologize for 1984 Sikh riots but has never apologized for innumerable anti-Muslim riots organized under its watch. As far as the preparation of a vision document for minorities is concerned, it is not appeasement but a genuine effort to lift their lot. It is a sincere effort to apply balm on the injuries of Muslims. Our focus is on economic, social and educational empowerment,’’ asserts Abdul Rasheed Ansari, president of the BJP Minority Morcha.

Today, a majority of Muslims are as upset with Modi as they were with LK Advani during his rath yatras back in the 1980s and 1990s. Tauzihuddin Siddiqui, former BJP member, sounds off a warning. ‘‘The BJP should take lessons from past. This country does not encourage extreme views and it is because of the extreme stand taken by Advani on Ram Temple that he was never considered for the top job. In a diverse society like ours, extreme views of any kind need to be discouraged. It is an open secret that Modi is not the kind of person who can take all sections of the society along. He can’t even take along his party members; see the case of Keshubhai Patel and Haren Pandya. So if anyone becomes the representative of one section of society, it does not serve the interest of this country. BJP should think a hundred times before projecting Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.’’

He adds, for good measure, ‘‘After these new revelations in fake encounter cases, Muslims in BJP should quit the party in protest so that a strong message could go to all the political parties that they cannot be taken for granted’’.

Says senior columnist Zafar Agha, ‘‘There are basically three major problems with Modi’s politics. One, he has never expressed commitment and faith in secular ethos of the country. He has very cautiously projected himself as leader of one community and one state which is neither in consonance with the Indian Constitution nor the secular fabric of the country because India is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual country.If he becomes prime minister of this great country, it will not be good for the secular and social ethos of the country. Secondly, there are serious issues with Modi over the 2002 riots in which more than 2,000 people are reported to have been killed. As per recent media reports, his name also figures in fake encounters in Gujarat and if these reports are correct then it could prove dangerous for the country. Thirdly, his much talked about development model is an elitist one in which there is no space for poor. Poverty is a serious problem of the country and he appears least concerned about it”.

Analysts say there are grave issues with the present government and there is little doubt that change is good for democracy. But the principal question is this: where is the opposition? The principal opposition party – BJP – is not prepared to take the government head on and is instead fighting with each other. BJP is preparing a vision document for empowerment of Muslims but lacks the vision to form a government.

There are also those who believe that Modi and the BJP’s latest efforts to woo Muslims may be too late and too little. Even worse, there are BJP leaders who say that such ‘appeasement’ a year before the elections could have unintended consequences: not only will the party not get Muslim votes but may end up alienating its cadres for adopting pro-minority positions after pursuing a hard line approach for years. If that happens, says one BJP leader, it could well be a case of ‘‘na khuda hi mila, na visale sanam’’ (could not either get God or the lover). Looks like BJP’s principle mascot is in a mood to shuffle his tactics a bit – just a wee bit.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017