Whom do you blame for the dissonance between the BJP and Muslims?
The Congress, NCP, SP and AIMIM have kept Muslims away from the BJP purely by portraying it as a bogeyman. They have not done an iota of work for the community and have gained votes only by spreading fear about the BJP. Is the BJP responsible for Muslim’s abject socio-economic conditions? The community understands this ploy and that is why the number of Muslims voting for the BJP is increasing.
There is still a perceptible fear against the BJP amongst Muslims. How will you counter this in the poll campaign?
The agenda of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ and the unprecedented work done by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have negated all doubts that the community had against the BJP. In the last five years, Maharashtra has not witnessed an hour of curfew. During earlier governments, riots would cause the loss of lives, limbs and property of Muslims. No riot has taken place under this government, which means that Muslims are relatively safer. Moreover, this government has spent the highest amount of money on Muslim women’s self-help groups. The government has worked hard to vacate encroachments on Waqf land. All these work are there for people to see and will translate into greater support.
There is a perception that the BJP is not keen on the political empowerment of Muslims. Will Muslims be made candidates in the 2019 elections?
In electoral politics, people are selected on the merit of their winning ability. Last time, the BJP had given tickets to 15 Muslim candidates for the BMC elections. None of them won as the community did not back the BJP fully. The community has the freedom to vote for whoever they want. They elect candidates from almost every party barring the BJP. I tell them that back at least one BJP candidate and see the qualitative difference of how we work vis-a-vis others. The basic point is if you want representation in the party, you need to stand behind it and support it as well.
How many Muslim candidates will the BJP filed in 2019 Assembly elections?
The party has certain parameters based on which it selects candidates. As loyal party workers, we abide by all decisions of the party. We have, however, made a request that five Muslims should be given tickets in these elections. These are for seats in Mumbai, Akola, Vidarbha and Bhandara. The BJP had last time given one ticket to Pasha Patel in Ausa, but he lost. Hopefully, there will be more successful candidates this year.
As a rare Muslim face in the party, what difference do you see in BJP compared to other parties you were earlier associated with?
I have been associated with the BJP for the past 22 years. The most stark difference is that other parties have no commitment towards improving the conditions of the Muslim community. There are socio-economic issues of the community which need to be addressed, which were never done earlier. On a personal level, I have hardly seen any CM of Maharashtra visit the house of a Muslim leader during Eid or any festivities. Devendra Fadnavis has no qualms of visiting the house of a party worker like me for Eid. From that, you can judge if there is any streak of communalism in him or the party.