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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

In Malegaon, BJP Muslim faces contradict party

Half of BJP’s civic poll candidates Muslim; they differ with party on triple talaq and beef, hope enough Muslims will join BJP to be able to influence govt views

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Malegaon |
Updated: May 23, 2017 6:34:08 am
BJP, Malegaon, malegaon muslims, malegaon BJP, BJP muslims, BJP malegaon muslims, Jamal Siddiqui, BJP, Malegaon municipla corporations, triple talaq, maharashtra, Malda, india news, india express news BJP candidate Shaheen Sayyad on campaign. She insists rules for divorce under Quranic system are the best. (Source: Express photo by Zeeshan Shaikh)

Jamal Siddiqui, chairman of the Maharashtra BJP’s minority wing, passionately stresses the need for Muslims to join the BJP in large numbers so that they can go on to influence government policies for the welfare of the community.

Sitting in a bylane of Malda in Malegaon, Siddiqui is interrupted by Shaikh Akhtar, 32, a powerloom owner and a BJP candidate in the upcoming municipal elections.

Triple talaq is a fundamental right of Muslims. Even if the Supreme Court gives a judgment against triple talaq, we will not accept it,” says Akhtar, whose 249 votes in the last municipal elections, in 2012, had made him the highest vote winner among the BJP’s then Muslim candidates.


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Akhtar is soon hushed up by Jamal, but their debate is reflective of the contradictions facing the BJP as it tries to make an aggressive electoral foray into Malegaon. One of India’s most densely populated Muslim areas, Malegaon is where two blasts, in 2006 and 2008, had brought terror attacks by alleged Hindu groups into the public discourse.

The BJP, which failed to win any seat in 2012, has now fielded 27 Muslims in the 56 seats it is contesting in the 84-seat Malegaon Municipal Corporation, with elections scheduled Wednesday. But in a town where many women wear a burqa and beef is sold openly, local BJP leaders’ electoral pitch is visibly out of alignment with the party’s ideology. Many of these candidates as well as Siddiqui, who is micro-managing the polls, have called for the beef ban to be lifted.

“We accept that the cow is holy and should not be slaughtered, but the slaughter of bulls and bullocks should be allowed,” says Siddiqui. “Beef is not the only matter that concerns Muslims… I always tell fellow Muslims that if you join the BJP in large numbers, you will be in a position to influence the party’s policies, maybe even overturn the beef ban.”

And while the BJP’s stated policy is against triple talaq, the party’s best known woman face in Malegaon, Dr Shaheen Sayyad, insists that the Quranic system of divorce is the best. “The rules for divorce prescribed in our scriptures are the best,” says Sayyad, 32, herself a BJP candidate and a paramedical personnel. “There have been instances of women being harassed because people have not followed the form of divorce prescribed in our scriptures.”

What the BJP candidates are unequivocal about is the need to improve the city’s infrastructure. The Malegaon Municipal Corporation, with a annual budget of around Rs 400 crore, caters to a population of 4.81 lakh, of whom 79 per cent are Muslims.

The city is split into two by the river Mausam, which demarcates the Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods. Some of the wards, especially in the Muslim half, comprise only slums. According to a state government-appointed committee that looked into ways of developing Malegaon, a major portion of the town is essentially no better than any slum in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. A survey by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences found only 33 per cent of households had latrines; the town had 81 open defecation spots.

Politics here had been dominated for years by late Janata Dal leader Nihal Ahmed, then by Congress leader Rashid Shaikh and his family. The BJP has largely played a peripheral role, never sending more than a couple of corporators to the municipality.

Now, its call for a shakeup in the political scene has found a resonance among many Muslim residents. There has been a steady inflow of Muslim workers into the BJP in Malegaon after the party’s growth on the national scene.

“There was a time when we found it difficult to put up Muslim candidates. This time nearly 105 people appeared for an interview seeking tickets,” says Shabbir Baba, a BJP worker managing the elections. “Even if we lose, I am happy because the BJP has built a cadre in this town and managed to reach every locality.”

Where the association with the BJP had once earned them taunts, party workers say, this very association is now helping them get work done. “Earlier, people used to ask me why I am associating with the BJP which is deemed to be anti-Muslim. People would make fun of us,” says Shaheen Sayyad. “But because of this same association, I am now able to get work done in my mohalla. Today, government officers look at my card and our work gets done.”

The BJP has bifurcated its campaign between the Hindu and Muslim zones. For the 56 seats in the Muslim-dominated part, it has deputed members of its state minorities wing led by chairman Siddiqui. Non-Muslim BJP leaders have not campaigned in the Muslim-dominated areas, candidates say.

“What message do you send when you don’t send any leaders to campaign this side of Malegaon? We are hurt at the way the BJP has carried out the campaign. But trust me when I tell you this — win or lose, I will never leave the BJP until I die,” says candidate Shakeel Ahmed Nagpuri.

The BJP insists it is serious about reaching out to the community. “Our presence in required in the BJP to counter misrepresentation about the community,” says Siddiqui. “Only when Muslims join the BJP in large numbers and become a force within will we be able to influence government policies for the betterment of the community.”

While some of BJP’s new members are looking at their association with the party as a beginning towards better Hindu-Muslim relations and development of the community, some new recruits have their own reasons for joining the BJP.

“I have always wanted to become a corporator. Maybe the BJP, with its hold over EVMs, will be able to help me achieve my dream,” says one BJP candidate, asking not to be named.

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