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SPECIAL REPORT
U.P. Muslims not impressed by Bangaru

By Masood Hasan, Lucknow

The efforts by the BJP president, Mr. Bangaru Laxman to woo Muslims to his party are viewed with optimism by his party leaders in Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, leaders of the opposition parties believe that the call will not serve any purpose for the BJP as its gimmick will not succeed. 

Mr. Laxman had said in Vijayawada recently that the Ayodhya issue would not be on the agenda of his party in the Assembly elections in UP and other states whenever they were held. The president of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP, Mr. Kalraj Misra, said that the party had abandoned ‘only for the present’ the vexed issues like the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, implementation of a uniform civil code and scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution which confers special status on Jammu and Kashmir. He clarified that the BJP could not take up these issues now since the party was a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Mr. Misra claimed that Muslims were joining the party after the party president's call.

Political circles here consider the call of Mr. Laxman to the minority community as an attempt by the BJP to create a dent in the Muslim vote bank of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party during the Assembly elections, scheduled for next year. Both these parties derive their strength from the support of the Muslims. On the other hand, the BJP is considered as a party of Hindu fanatics and it has virtually no hold among the minority community in the state. 

The Minister of State for Medical Education, Ms. Sheema Rizvi, who is the lone Muslim minister in the Ram Prakash Gupta government from the BJP quota, told this correspondent that her party was determined to bring Muslims into the party-fold. She claimed that the SP and the BSP were giving only lip service to Muslims in order to get their votes. What the SP and the BSP had done for the welfare of the minority community when they came to power in UP, she rhetorically asked. 

On the other hand, Ms. Rizvi, daughter of late Aijaz Rizvi, a former BJP minister, claims that her party's government had worked for the welfare of the Muslims. She welcomed the statement of Mr. Laxman and claimed that Muslims were now ready to join her party. On the other hand, leader of the Opposition in Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council and a senior SP leader, Mr. Ahmad Hasan, dubbed the call of the BJP President to the Muslims as only a gimmick. Mr. Hasan felt that the call was given by Mr. Laxman at the instance of the RSS leaders. The call was a conspiracy by the RSS to create confusion among Muslims and to divide the community, he alleged. 

Mr. Hasan feels that the BJP would rake up the Ayodhya issue again during the Assembly elections in UP in a bid to exploit the religious sentiments of the majority community. He wondered how a party which came to power on the Ayodhya issue would forget it now. 

Significantly, the Loktantrik Congress Party (LCP), an ally of the ruling BJP in the state, has not taken the statements of Mr. Laxman and Mr. Misra lightly. The General Secretary of the LCP, Mr. Siraj Mehdi, made it clear that the LCP had extended support to the BJP only on the condition that it would not do anything which will hurt the feelings of the minority community. He apprehended that the BJP would dance to the tunes of the Sangh and the Bajrang Dal in raking up the controversial issues.

Mr. Mehdi indicated that his party would take up the statement of the BJP leaders seriously. But he did not elaborate. He, however, warned that the BJP would face serious consequences in the coming days if the party tried to rake up controversial issues.
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