The BJP has given the politically-loaded iftar parties in the capital the cold shoulder. The approach of the party’s new national leadership marks a shift away from the policy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who often employed Congress-like tactics to reach out to Muslims.
Unlike several former prime ministers starting with Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has neither hosted an iftaar feast nor attended one. He stayed away from President Pranab Mukherjee’s iftar party last week, and so did other BJP ministers, barring Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla.
Neither Heptulla nor BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has ever hosted a political iftaar party.
Naqvi told The Indian Express, “It is nobody’s constitutional or political duty to hold a roza iftaar… It is a purely religious and personal matter like breaking a Navratra fast. It is not a political event.”
Former union minister Shahnawaz Hussain, who has been organising lavish iftar feasts for some15 years, did not host one this Ramzan. He said he had begun the practice on Vajpayee’s advice, but he had no particular reason for breaking with it this year.
“Atalji organised an iftar feast after our (BJP) victory in 1999 and then told me that from now on, you host it every year and I will join it,” Hussain told The Indian Express.
“I made it a point to abide by his wish, and Atalji came to my house every year for the iftaar party till the time he was physically able to attend. At times even Manmohan Singh (as prime minister) came over.”
Asked why he hadn’t had a party this year, Hussain said: “Just like that. I am no longer a Member of Parliament… There is no compulsion, it is my personal religious matter… But I have planned a grand Eid celebration tomorrow.”
Lok Janshakti Party chief and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, a diehard “secularist”, hosted an iftar, but in Patna.
2014 is the first year since Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna introduced iftar parties as a demonstration of a leader’s commitment to secularism that a paradigm shift has taken place.
In the old BJP, Vajpayee’s “secular” acts were balanced by celebrations like Murli Manohar Joshi’s Deepawali Milan. Whether that too has changed remains to be seen.
IT’S DIFFERENT IN THE STATES
VASUNDHARA RAJE, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, hosted a grand iftaar feast for over 1,300 invitees at her official residence in Jaipur on Saturday. Functionaries of the Anjuman Dargah Sharief (of Moinuddin Chishti) presented her with a chunri. \Raje held iftaar parties in her earlier (2003-2008) term as well. On Saturday, she appealed for brotherhood and unity: “If our language, blood, eyes are the same, then how are we different?”
SHIVRAJ SINGH CHOUHAN, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, hosted a roza iftaar at his official residence in Bhopal, where Shahr Qazi Mushtaq Ali led the prayers. This has been Chouhan’s practice, even though the state BJP has never organised an iftaar party.
BJP units in Maharashtra and Punjab organised iftaars, as did units in Karnataka, Bihar and West Bengal, which were attended by Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, and state BJP chief Rahul Sinha respectively. State units in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, however, did not organise iftaar parties.