The BJP is ready for battle — but there are misgivings in the ranks. A section of party leaders feels that the campaign against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remark at the National Development Council meeting on Saturday that Muslims should have the first claim on resources can boomerang on the party with the UPA and allies accusing it of being “anti-development”.
The leaders feel that the BJP cannot whip up mass sentiment on the minority issue now that the Prime Minister’s office and the Planning Commission have clarified the remark.
They point to NDA ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who disagreed with the BJP’s outcry over the Prime Minister’s remarks that deprived sections like the SC/ST, minorities and women require special attention. The issue figured at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, where party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said a national party like the BJP should not be seen ranged against the Prime Minister’s remarks, when the issue was one of development.
The Congress could easily brand the BJP “anti-development” by reiterating that the Prime Minister had referred to all the underprivileged sections, including the minorities “who should have the first claim on the country’s resources.” Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj support Naqvi’s contention. But Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and BJP chief Rajnath Singh claim that the Prime Minister’s statements have not gone down well and will be seen as the latest UPA step to woo the Muslim votebank.
A “campaign against Congress politics of appeasement” was later announced by Rajnath Singh after the BJP parliamentary party adopted a resolution condemning the Prime Minister’s remark and declaring that “the poorest of the poor have the first claim on the country’s resources — not a religious group”. Swaraj admitted on Wednesday that there were differences in NDA over the UPA government’s “Muslim appeasement” policy.