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BJP plans ‘secular’ Muslim party
By Faraz Ahmad 

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party is encouraging Muslim clerics to float a "secular" Muslim party which it hopes would enter the electoral fray in a big way.

As part of the understanding with various groups of clerics, talking directly or indirectly to the BJP leaders, including party president M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Central government will give an amount of Rs 50 crores as a package to the dargah of Ajmer Sharif and more for other Muslim institutions. Also, if things work out according to plans, said sources in the BJP, coordinating with Ajmer Dargah trustee Deewan Saheb Zaindul Abedin Ali Khan, imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari may be encouraged to contest the next elections from Chandni Chowk with tacit BJP support. To ensure his victory, sitting BJP MP and Union minister Vijay Goel could be shifted to Sadar parliamentary constituency, said BJP sources. If things work out according to plans, this "Muslim" party will be encouraged to contest at least 50 seats all over the country. Its focus will be in areas where Muslim votes are a deciding factor, indicated Deewan Saheb, who said that this party would contest seats in Delhi, UP, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where Muslims are a deciding factor, adding that while he will not be contesting the elections, he could support such a party.

The scheme to float a "secular" Muslim party with official patronage started nearly two years ago when the ND A government set up a joint parliamentary committee to go into the mismanagement of the Ajmer dargah and other similar Muslim institutions frequented by large number of Muslims from all over the country. 

These sources said that before Mr Vajpayee leaves for the Saarc summit in Islamabad in January, he is expected to make an announcement of the "package."

BJP sources said that in his meetings with Deewan Saheb, Mr Venkaiah Naidu tried to impress upon him that the BJP is not against Muslims but merely Muslim appeasement. "We are for it, if a party is formed for the welfare of Muslims, we will support it," he is reported to have told Mr Zainul Abedin and other Muslim leaders who have been meeting BJP leaders. He also agreed with them that for all these years the secular parties have used the Muslims as a vote bank to further their political ends. Both agreed that there should be a "secular" Muslim party to represent Muslim interests. "This party," explained the Ajmer trustee, "will have its membership open to all sections and many intellectuals Muslims and non-Muslims are with us in this."

The 27th general council meeting of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind was held earlier this year on March 9, 2003. "At this meeting," said Jamiat chief Maulana Mehmud Madani, "we suggested a secular party which would represent Muslim cause. But that was shot down by Maulana Bukhari who suggested we should float an only a Muslim party. But we opposed it," he said. (The Asian Age, 15-12-03)

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