Vocal Hindutva hardliners, PM silence halt BJP’s Muslim membership marchhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/vocal-hindutva-hardliners-pm-silence-halt-bjps-muslim-membership-march/

Vocal Hindutva hardliners, PM silence halt BJP’s Muslim membership march

Many seek membership cancellation, minority wing leaders blame VHP, Sakshi Maharaj.

In PM’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, BJP had set a target to enrol 5,000 Muslims. However, the campaign has nearly come to a halt after enrolling 3,000, mainly weavers. (Archive photo)
In PM’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, BJP had set a target to enrol 5,000 Muslims. However, the campaign has nearly come to a halt after enrolling 3,000, mainly weavers. (Archive photo)

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi failing to rein in the Hindutva hardliners, and RSS and its affiliates coming out in support of ‘ghar wapsi’ (religious re-conversion), a number of Muslims who had enrolled with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, now want their membership cancelled.

The party, which has pegged its ongoing membership drive on Modi’s development agenda, is now finding it hard to convince the minority community especially in the backdrop of controversial comments on Muslims by its leaders such as Sakshi Maharaj, Sadvhi Niranjan Jyoti and Sadhvi Prachi.

BJP launched its membership campaign in November and as per party leaders, by January 31, around 1.5 lakh Muslims had got enrolled with it in UP. This includes nearly 5,000 in Muzaffarnagar, which was rocked by communal riots in 2013.

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“When we launched the membership campaign, Muslims had started joining BJP with enthusiasm expressing faith in leadership of PM Modi and his vision of development. But, after recent statements of VHP leaders and our MPs, we are facing problems in convincing Muslims to join the party,” admitted Rumana Siddiqui, state president of BJP Minority Morcha.

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Azad Ansari, UP convener of BJP Weaver’s Cell too confirmed as much. “Now, we are assuring the minority community that the controversial statements are personal views of individual leaders and a conspiracy against PM Modi,” Ansari said.

Now, to convince the Muslims, the minority wing leaders cite the example of party national president Amit Shah who, in December last year, had stopped his speech midway while addressing a rally in Kolkata as the muezzin’s call for prayers was sounded from a mosque.

While Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Sadhvi Prachi hit a jarring note appealing the Hindus to have four or more children to counter Muslim growth, a VHP unit, Hindu Jagran Manch, held a ‘ghar wapsi’ programme in Agra to re-convert Muslims into Hinduism. It has announced more such programmes in different parts of the country.

Rumana said of nearly 700 Muslims who had joined BJP in Unnao, the Lok Sabha constituency of Sakshi Maharaj, in a camp on December 24, a large number have now requested for cancellation of their membership. While 500 Muslims have sent a similar request from Lucknow, the LS constituency of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, another 1,500 from different parts of UP have sought to withdraw their BJP membership, added Rumana.

“The number of such requests increased soon after VHP’s Sadhvi Prachi allegedly made an objectionable remark against Muslim children,” a BJP leader said.

During a review of membership drive in Lucknow recently, Azad Ansari requested senior leaders to address public meetings in Saharanpur and few other Muslim dominated areas to instil faith in the community for BJP.

In PM’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, BJP had set a target to enrol 5,000 Muslims. However, the campaign has nearly come to a halt after enrolling 3,000, mainly weavers. “The response was good in the early stage of campaign, but the controversial statements by VHP leaders and Sakshi Maharaj against Muslims has affected it adversely,” said Khalid Ameen, minority wing president of BJP’s Varanasi Mahanagar unit.

“Now, we face questions from Muslims about BJP’s intentions on (building) Ram temple (in Ayodhya) and re-conversion. They ask whether their joining will be considered a ‘ghar wapsi’,” added Ameen.

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He said, on his part, he assures his community members that top party leaders such as Modi and Shah have not spoken against Muslims and that BJP wants development of all communities. He also tells them about the reduction in fuel prices and the initiatives taken by Modi government for welfare of weavers.