It was a sight that was hard to miss: A few thousand Muslim men wearing skull caps and women wearing burqas attending a massive BJP rally that was being addressed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
But the secret behind the politically intriguing visual was bared when sources in the BJP revealed that the party had bought 5,000 skull caps and burqas each two days before the event to be distributed to Muslims attending the rally.
Hours before the event,free skull caps and burqas were distributed among Muslims. We were allowed to take them home too. Both my wife and I have got one each. We were provided free travel and food too by the district in-charge, said Shaukat Ali,who had come from Kota for the rally.
Gul Mohammad,a resident of Ajmer,told The Indian Express that the BJP had also spread word that all those selected to travel to Jaipur for the rally should get their own skull caps and burqas. The selection of participants favoured maulanas and those who sported the traditional beard and skullcap, he added.
BJP state minority cell president Aamin Pathan,however,denied the claims.
Last year,at an event in Dudu for which the UPA chairperson had come,Muslims in the audience were asked to take off their burqa for security reasons. We did not want that to happen to our audience and had told them that they could wear a burqa or skull cap if they wished. There was no directive to do so, he said.
Pathan said the rally was attended by about 3 lakh people and about 25,000 of them were Muslims. Of this,an estimated 4,000 women must have come in burqas,he said.
It was a choice,not a compulsion. Also,the idea was to show that the minority community stands by Vasundhara Raje and the BJP after being ill-treated by the Congress in the state in incidents such as the Gopalgarh riots, Pathan added.
The Congress was quick to seize the issue and slam the BJP.
BJP wants Muslims to come wearing Burqas and Skull Cap in their meetings. Dress Code or Vote Bank Politics? Would pl Media ask BJP? Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted.
The Congress spokesperson in Rajasthan,Archana Sharma,accused the BJP of indulging in manipulation to get Muslim faces to the rally.
Development or communal harmony is the least of their concerns and the BJP is only interested in polarization of the community and votes. In times of communal riots in the country such as in Muzaffarnagar,such moves of the BJP are in bad taste, Sharma said.