Why Muslims must give BJP a fair chancehttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/why-muslims-must-give-bjp-a-fair-chance-4639535/

Why Muslims must give BJP a fair chance

The community has devalued its own vote by becoming captive to self-styled secular parties

C R Sasikumar

Following the BJP’s resounding electoral victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections recently, the Muslim community went into a tizzy. Muslims have yet to recover from the shock of such an emphatic result. That this handsome victory was achieved without giving tickets to Muslim candidates or seeking their votes has truly alarmed them. They fear that the BJP will now create a Hindu Rashtra, starting with UP. Nineteen per cent of the state population or four crore people are feeling isolated. I must hasten to add that these feelings of fear and uncertainty are being mischievously spread by the community’s political leaders in the Congress party and other self-certified secular parties. They are being made to believe that the BJP is communal and a confirmed anti-Muslim party though in reality it’s the opposite.

Unfortunately, some among the Muslims are listening to the misleading utterances of their leaders in UP. Some of these leaders cannot accept the capitulation of their parties gracefully. They would like to continue to keep the vice-like grip over the community firm and give it a false sense of security. It’s pathetic to see how the community still considers these parties as their political masters. “We continue to be their bonded labour”, say Muslim leaders.

Besides Muslim politicians of mainstream parties, the community’s own discredited maulanas and moulvis with no real reach use the media to spew venom against the BJP and RSS. In many WhatsApp groups, there are sounds of helpless whispering that they should be bracing themselves for a bleak future in which they would be reduced to the status of Mohammedia Hindu, which they fear is a long-term project of the RSS. They are being warned that they would become second class citizens in a Hindu Rashtra, which they believe is a work in progress.

Some political and religious leaders in the community have been dangerously peddling fears by saying that the recent electoral hammering of all secular forces in UP is akin to the historic event of the demolition of the Babri structure in 1992. Some others, with more fertile imaginations, have been alluding to the forced exodus of Muslims by Catholic Spain from Granada in 1492 or talking of a possible repeat of the 1857 situation when the British Raj had largely punished the Muslim community for taking part in India’s first push for independence

Advertising

The Muslim community’s concerns, however, are not based on reality. They are perhaps based on perceptions instilled in them by political parties which have used them time and again only for political gain. Can the Centre be called anti-Muslim after examining the BJP’s track record since Narendra Modi has come to power? In fact, the government has discreetly targeted the poor and needy Muslims through various schemes: For instance, the Ujjawala scheme where close to 20 per cent Muslim women have been given free gas connections. The numbers are very strong, too, for the Jan Dhan and Mudra schemes. How come the self-appointed dharam gurus of the Muslim community do not remember that the Haj quota has been enhanced by the Saudi government due to the untiring efforts of our honourable prime minister?

Modi often says he is the PM of 125 crore people. He has been concerned at the lack of education in the Muslim community and he has been advising the community to go for education. In his very first speech in Parliament in 2014 he had alluded to the Muslims’ lack of effort in educating themselves.

The Muslim of UP and other states must stop listening to their defeated leaders and rabble-rouser moulvis. They give the example of the Muslims of Gujarat where the community forms 9.5 per cent of the population and where the BJP has been winning state elections without giving tickets to Muslims for 20 years. They argue that if a community is kept out of power for long by a winning party, it can shake the morale and confidence of the community. But the real and pertinent question is: Who is keeping the Muslims out of power? It’s the Muslim community which is responsible for making its votes valueless and redundant by becoming a captive vote bank for the Congress and a few other parties, but completely ignoring the BJP which is a ruling party and works in a non-partisan manner.

I would argue that the Gujarat example should serve as a role model for the Muslims of UP and other states. Their emphasis on education is exemplary. There were 200-odd Muslim educational institutions before Modi assumed the chief minister’s office. Today their number has climbed to over 800. I would urge the Muslims of UP to visit the schools run by these educational institutions in Gujarat. Their educational standard is indeed quite high. You will come across schools where the girls’ uniform is more Islamic than many Muslim countries, their appearance is Muslim, their tongue is Gujarati and their heart beats for Mother India.

The Gujarati Muslims are enjoying an upsurge in trade they never experienced during the Congress regime. They may be small traders but their income is steady. This has improved their lifestyles. Ask the small traders around Teen Darwaza in Ahmedabad and they will tell you the hawkers here are all Muslims and the customers all Hindus. One cannot do without the other, it seems, and Modi is looked up to as a great leader and a hero in the true sense.

If the BJP wanted, it could have done to Muslims what the Congress has done to them — appeasement. It meant giving false hopes in every election. Today, there may not be a single BJP Muslim MLA in the assembly but there are Hindu MLAs who are looking after the interests of the Muslim population better than the two sitting Muslim MLAs from the Congress party.

Take the case of BJP MLA Bhushan Bhatt who represents the Jamalpur-Khadia assembly seat, where the Muslim population is 48 per cent. He meets ordinary people everyday from 9 am to 11 am. Most of the petitioners are burqa-clad women and bearded men. They will tell you they are happy that their leader is Bhatt. Do they miss being led by a Muslim leader? The answer is an emphatic no.

Jamalpur-Khadia is also a trend-setter. Muslims of this constituency vote for Bhatt. In fact, one can find examples of places where Muslims are BJP supporters and voters. The BJP is strongly promoting the message among Muslim families that Muslim youth need better education and equal opportunities and not misleading guidance from self-appointed religious gurus.

There are also examples of Muslims joining politics at the grassroots. The sarpanch of Vadodara’s Diwalipura village is an educated, English-speaking young woman, Nilofer Patel. She was elected by the majority Hindu community. There are other Muslim village headmen and women in Gujarat. You will find Muslim students winning elections on the university campus and in municipal corporation elections. Nilofer Patel says she wants to be an MLA one day. Looking at her popularity, it should not be difficult for her.

Muslims have a message for their counterparts in UP: Don’t listen to the mullahs. Unshackle yourself from the slavery of the so-called secular parties. The BJP is not communal but painted so systematically by the Congress and other parties to keep the Muslims away from the mainstream. There is no need to fear them. Give them a fair chance like we have started doing in Gujarat.