BJP’s Muslim-Card

It is difficult, virtually impossible, to be led by several BJP leaders’ comments regarding their concern for the welfare of the Indian Muslims. If it was not election time, the same leaders would have probably remained silent about this issue or were busy talking about UPA’s Muslim appeasement. But with Delhi assembly elections to be held later this year and the parliamentary polls scheduled in less than a year’s time, BJP apparently has no option but to try and win over Muslim voters’ confidence. It is not without reason that BJP’s minority cell in Delhi has adopted a new slogan, according to which, “The ones who work for progress of Muslims will rule the country.”

BJP president Rajnath Singh has gone a step further by asserting at a function in Jaipur (Rajasthan) that he wants to win over “the confidence” of Muslims. Referring indirectly to Gujarat-carnage (2002), he said that the country witnessed 13,000 communal riots before 2002. Suggesting that Muslims should “forget or ignore” the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat (2002), Singh asserted that (now) Muslims did not face any discrimination in any of the BJP-ruled states. If they did, Singh asked them to approach him and he will try and solve their problem.

It is indeed ironical that, on one hand, BJP is hopeful of performing well in the parliamentary polls with the elevation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the party’s campaign manager. On the other, the BJP appears fairly apprehensive that Modi’s political rise in the party may turn the Muslim voters totally against the party. What else could have prompted BJP’s Delhi cell leaders to suddenly give a new importance to their concern for development of Muslims? The party, which has the background of promoting anti-Muslim communal propaganda, now seems to be indulging in “secular” politics to win over Muslim-vote.

The apparent change in BJP’s political strategy may be critically examined from several angles. There is a possibility that BJP leaders are deliberately using this strategy to convince media about its non-communal, “secular” image. There is no denying that the elevation of Modi within the party has made secular and Muslim Indians suspicious about the BJP’s “secular” credentials. Superficially, the BJP is keen to shed its communal mask. If the party was serious about adopting the same strategy, Modi’s political reach would at best have  remained confined to Gujarat. He would not have been brought to centre-stage as the BJP’s national campaign manager.

Modi’s elevation compels one to deliberate on the degree to which the BJP is serious about the progress of Indian Muslims. As mentioned earlier, the BJP is apparently indulging in this strategy to cleanse its image and project itself as a “secular” party. There is no knowing whether the BJP is indulging in the same strategy at the grass-roots among its own extremist associates linked with the saffron-brigade. Probably, the party is least likely to reveal the strategy it is exercising in these sections. The BJP is hopeful that Modi’s communal image will help it attract Hindu votes, particularly of those with extremist and anti-Muslim leanings. But the BJP is least likely to expose this card to the media and to secular as well as Muslim voters.

It may be noted, BJP has tried attracting the attention of media and Muslims by drawing their attention to its concern for the progress of this community. The party has made hardly any noise about whether it has tried convincing its own extremist, anti-Muslim associates that they must change their communal and discriminatory approach towards Muslims. If Muslims still remain subject to discrimination, it is largely due to communal cards used by anti-Muslim extremists linked with the saffron brigade. So, from this angle, howsoever loudly BJP pronounces its pro-Muslim stance, this is likely to remain confined to rhetoric till Muslims and media are appraised of the same. In essence, till the communal card played by the saffron brigade activists is discarded, it is difficult to expect any change in the discriminatory attitude Muslims face.

The BJP is also apprehensive that Modi’s elevation may prove politically damaging for it. To a degree, this has already been marked by Janata Dal-United (JD-U) walking out of the NDA-coalition in protest against Modi’s elevation. What is apparently more worrying for the BJP is the prospect of the Congress gaining primarily because of Modi’s communal image.  Undeniably, the elevation of Modi as the BJP’s national campaign manager has made the Congress feel politically comfortable about its performance in the parliamentary polls. The Congress is apparently confident that the anti-BJP vote will help it gain a lead in the national elections. Rather than project this speculation as a result of an anti-BJP wave, with Modi as the national campaign manager, the Congress has already begun crediting Rahul Gandhi for the party’s possible success in the parliamentary polls. This can be read in comments made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the leadership qualities of Rahul. Singh has described Rahul as a “natural leader” of the Congress, who is “fit enough” to head the country as the next prime minister.

Alarmed by its own political-card proving beneficial for the Congress, the BJP is trying to reverse such prospects by presenting its secular mask before Muslims and media!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2013 on page no. 11

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