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Published in the 16-31 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Give us a chance: BJP appeals to Muslims
Promises of all round development of minorities
By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, different political parties are trying hard to woo Muslims. This time the BJP, the party known for its anti- minority character, too is not far behind any other party to woo the community. In fact it is trying all the 'superficial means' to attract the minorities particularly Muslims to the party fold. The party's recent 'Minorities Development Conference' at Talkatora Stadium here was a well organised part of the process. 
Vajpayee in the BJP-sponsored Muslim conference

Vajpayee in the BJP-sponsored Muslim conference


In the meet Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee led an aggressive initiative to reach out to Muslims, urging the community to shed its fears, repose full faith in the BJP and vote for the party. 

"Get out of the fear that is dividing the nation and vote for a government that will not allow any community to live in fear," Vajpayee said. Assuring Muslims that the BJP would safeguard all its interests, he asked the community to reach considered positions. "Do not shun the BJP without careful thought," he said. The BJP showcased its latest Muslim entrant, former Union minister Arif Mohammed Khan, as a confidence-gaining measure and to show that Muslims weren't outcasts for the saffron party. 

Attacking the Congress, Vajpayee said Muslims were once told that if they failed to vote for that party, they would be sent to Pakistan. "Now, people are queuing up for visas to visit Pakistan and vice-versa," he said. In fact Vajpayee tried to take full advantage of his recent successful visit to Pakistan to convince Muslim.
This Convention made fervent appeal to the Muslims to make the coming Lok Sabha elections a turning point in India's political history. For over five decades, the Congress and other opposition parties have treated minorities merely as a "vote bank", but done little for their socio economic progress. Indeed, these parties have always tried to instil a fear psychosis among the minorities by saying that, if they were not voted to power, the BJP in power would spell danger and doom for the minorities.

Vajpayee also said Muslims should consider themselves "rightful partners" in the wave of development sweeping the nation: "A superhighway is not just for one community, it is for all. The fruits of development are for everyone to share." Addressing the meet the BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu said that his party wants all round development of the minorities. "you are the equal partner of our society" he stressed. 

Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, and the party's two prominent Muslim leaders - Union Textiles Minister Shahnawaz Hussain and general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi - made a strong plea to the minority community to join their party. The new entrant Arif Mohammad Khan too urged the Muslim to join the party and said he got a lot of love and affection from the Sangh Parivar.

Interestingly an old time BJP man Arif Beig during his speech made a strong plea for the development of Madarsas amid applause from the audience. "It is unfortunate that finger is being raised against Madarsas. Madrasas had played a very important role during freedom struggle. Please don't see them with suspicious eyes. They need support and the attention of government" Beig pleaded before BJP stalwarts. 

The BJP Convention passed a resolution congratulating Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee for providing stable governance to the country since March 1998. It said that under his stewardship, India has taken rapid strides in all spheres of development, with many historic achievements. "He has taken bold steps to tackle several longstanding problems - such as countering cross border terrorism, restoration of peace and normalcy in Jammu & Kashmir and initiation of a peace process with Pakistan". The resolution said that Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the most popular and most respected leader among all sections of Indian society, including the 'minorities'.

"The NDA Government has shown its commitment to secularism and promoted communal peace and harmony. There has been a significant reduction in incidents of communal violence during the NDA rule, relative to a comparable period earlier" it noted. 

The resolution also said that minorities are safe and have faced 'no discrimination' under the NDA Government. Their religious freedoms have not been curtailed in any manner. "On the contrary, the BJP led Government has provided more support and resources for the promotion of Urdu language and modernization of Madarsa education in the past five years than the previous governments did in 50 years", it noted adding the minorities communities of India fully share the all round sense of joy and national pride".

This Convention made fervent appeal to the Muslims to make the coming Lok Sabha elections a turning point in India's political history. For over five decades, the Congress and other opposition parties have treated minorities merely as a "vote bank", but done little for their socio economic progress. Indeed, these parties have always tried to instil a fear psychosis among the minorities by saying that, if they were not voted to power, the BJP in power would spell danger and doom for the minorities. It said that the BJP is wedded to the all round development of minorities through the three 'E' Programme that are Education, Economic upliftment, and Empowerment. 

The Convention specifically adopted a three Point Action Plan that calls upon prominent public figures belonging to minority communities to come forward to join the BJP along with their followers, to support "Atal Bihari Vajpayee Committees", comprising people belonging to minority communities. It also calls upon respected community leaders, who may or may not join the BJP, to become the convenor/s of these committees. It asked the BJP workers to intensify efforts to reach out to the minority brethren in their neighbourhoods, communicate the achievements and initiatives of the NDA Government as well as the BJP's Vision for the future.

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