Muslims will get representation in the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, though the party did not field any candidate from the community in the state assembly elections.
The party got an unprecedented mandate on Saturday in India’s most populous and politically crucial state, winning 312 seats in the 403-member assembly. The plan to induct a Muslim minister is aimed at reaching out to the community that is not known to be a BJP vote base.
The BJP’s outreach is driven by its assessment that a section of Muslims, especially women and youth, has embraced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda and happy with the party’s stand against triple talaq.
“If (a Muslim) MLA is not there, an MLC (member of legislative council) will be there … there will be Muslim representatives in the government.” Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu said in an interview to HT on Sunday.
The former BJP president plays a key role in the party’s decision-making process.
The party’s poll campaign hinged on a blend of development issues and Hindutva rhetoric, aimed particularly at its traditional support base. Induction of a Muslim minister would help expand its social base and shed the perception of being a Hindu right-wing party. In 1991, then BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh had brought Muslim leader Aizaz Rizvi into the legislative council and appointed him a minister. His daughter, Seema Rizvi, was appointed a minister in another BJP government led by Ram Prakash Gupta in 1999. Naidu, who also holds the information and broadcasting portfolio, defended the absence of a Muslim on the BJP’s list of 383 candidates in UP, a state of 220 million people in which about 18% of the population are from the religious minority group.
“It was a weakness, not a mistake. We could not find suitable candidates confident of winning; whom the party thought could win.”
He said a section of Muslims supported the BJP in the polls. “Because of the triple talaq issue, Muslim women, especially younger women, voted for us.”
The BJP’s victory in Deoband, home to one of the biggest Islamic seminaries in the world, appears to endorse his opinion. Election Commission data show the BJP won 31 of the 42 seats where Muslims comprised a third of the electorate.