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BJP Muslim outreach raises rivals’ hackles as Pasmanda politics hots up in Bihar

Ex-CM Jitan Ram Manjhi asks BJP if it would project a Muslim face as CM candidate for 2025 Bihar polls

Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) founder and ex-Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. (Express archives)

The BJP’s bid to reach out to Pasmanda Muslims seems to be heating up politics in Bihar, with the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) founder and ex-Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi asking the BJP if the party would project a Muslim face as its CM candidate for the 2025 state Assembly elections.

Pasmanda (literally meaning those left behind) Muslims are a backward and marginalised section of the minority community that the BJP has been trying to mobilise in the Hindi heartland, especially in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP’s Pasmanda push intensified following its national executive conclave, held in Hyderabad in July this year, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the party to make an outreach to “deprived and downtrodden” sections in all communities. PM Modi also called upon the BJP to take out “sneh yatra” (affection rally) to reach out to all sections.

Following the PM’s pitch, Pasmanda politics has become a subject of intense deliberations in Bihar. The All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM) president and ex-Rajya Sabha MP, Ali Anwar Ansari, has now charged that all parties have been playing politics over the Pasmanda Muslim issue, reiterating that Muslims need “samman (respect)” and not “sneh (affection)”.

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BJP MLC and ex-Union minister Sanjay Paswan organised a discussion on the Pasmanda issue in Patna on 25 November, in which RSS leader Ram Madhav and several Muslim leaders including Ghulam Gous, Sabir Ali and Akhtari Begum participated.

In his speech at the function, Madhav said: “In the political history of the country, a tribal has become President of India and an OBC has become the PM. The Centre has constituted Commissions for tribals and minorities for the protection of their rights as per the constitutional norms”.

Madhav, however, regretted that only 15-20 per cent of the Pasmanda and deprived communities have been getting the benefits of the government’s welfare schemes. “About 75 per cent of Muslims are Pasmanda but they are not getting adequate representation. This section needs to raise their voice. Central government has been trying to transfer benefits of sundry welfare schemes to them through DBT,” he said.

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Sanjay Paswan told the event: “There has been a Pasmanda section in every community. It is our duty to bring them all into the mainstream. We need to bring them together. In this respect, former CM Karpoori Thakur had done an excellent classification by identifying Pasmanda among Muslims, extremely backward among Hindus, economically backward among general category and also identifying women as backwards, who need assistance from the government.”

HAM (Secular) chief Manjhi, however, hit out at the BJP over its Pasmanda Muslims outreach. “What BJP has been doing in name of Pasmanda politics is a complete charade,” he alleged. “If BJP is really serious about winning over Muslims and work for backwards among them, they should project a Muslim as its CM face in 2025 polls,” he said.

The HAM (Secular) is a constituent of the ruling seven-party Grand Alliance, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

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Ali Anwar, who has been taking up the cause of Pasmanda Muslims through his apolitical AIPMM for the last 25 years, however said: “All these parties have been doing politics in Pasmandas’ name. We have already written an open letter to PM saying that Pasmandas need respect, not affection.”

First published on: 29-11-2022 at 16:47 IST
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