Making an all-out attempt to woo Muslim voters, BJP president Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday that the party was willing to apologise for any “mistake”, as he urged the minority community to give them a chance “at least once”.
Addressing a gathering of the party’s minority morcha workers from across the country, Singh urged them to convey this message to the community.
“Please note that whenever, wherever, if there has been any mistake and shortcoming on our part, I assure you that we will apologise to you by bowing our heads,” he said.
While he refrained from mentioning any specific “mistake”, he talked about the 2002 Gujarat riots and the allegations against the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying the BJP was not against Muslims and the community should not fall prey to the “propaganda” against the party.
“Try us once. If we don’t live up to your expectations, don’t look at us ever again…Hum aapse mohabbat karte hain (we love you ),” he said.
Referring to the Congress, he said, “Unko dekha baar baar, kamse kam humko dekho ek baar (You have seen them so many times, at least try us once).”
Singh said, “Modi has said that secularism for him is ‘India First’. That means the politics of the country should not be dictated on the basis of caste, creed or religion, but it should be guided on the basis of humanity and justice… Do not hesitate to highlight that he has repeatedly said that his religion is the Constitution of the country.”
Accusing the Congress of propaganda against Modi, he said, “People claim that Muslims are afraid of Modi. But there are several Muslim representatives elected on the BJP symbol in Gujarat. In fact, the highest per capita Muslim income is in Gujarat. What you (Congress) could not do in 55 years, he has done in 10 years. Now, even the court has ruled that the allegations against him (in connection with the Gujarat riots) are baseless. What else is left against him?”.
He said, “The Congress is playing vote bank politics to defame Modi and BJP… Try and understand this, they want Muslims to move away from the BJP.”
Singh, however, asserted his opposition to reservation for minorities on the basis of religion. “Anyone who is poor should be given reservation, irrespective of whether he is a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian,” he said, adding that those demanding quota on religious lines were indulging in “divide-and-rule” vote bank politics.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley urged the workers to highlight Modi’s commitment to provide a “riot-free” administration. “I heard Modi’s rally in western Uttar Pradesh where he highlighted how he has provided over 10 years of riot-free administration (in Gujarat) and wished UP would also get a riot-free administration. We must highlight our commitment to make the country riot-free,” he said.
“In the last Goa Assembly elections, the party fielded many Christian candidates. Most of the minority community voters of Goa voted for the BJP. The imaginary wall between the Christian community and the BJP in Goa has collapsed. Many of our ministers, including the Deputy Chief Minister, belong to the minority community,” said Jaitley on his website later in the day.
“In the recent Rajasthan Assembly elections, only four members of the minority community — two Sikhs and two Muslims — were elected. All the four belong to the BJP. Many minority community members (from the BJP) have been elected to the local bodies in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Wherever we have fielded several candidates belonging to various minority communities and tried to groom leaders from these communities, we have got a good response from the voters,” he said.
Later in the evening, at an event to launch a book titled Moditva, Singh praised the Gujarat Chief Minister, saying “Moditva is an idea and a phenomenon in the country for good governance”. He said, “Modi does not believe in perverted secularism. He believes in positive secularism”.