Noted journalist MJ Akbar, now the national spokesperson of the BJP, has emerged as a prominent Muslim face of the party. He had earlier represented Kishanganj in the Lok Sabha as a Congress member. He says Muslims are quite inclined to the BJP and even contentious issues like "Ghar Wapsi (Home Coming)" will not impact them in polls this year. Excerpts from interview with Binod Dubey.
Muslims have a significant presence in nearly 50 assembly constituencies in Bihar, where they can be the game changers. Past trends suggest that the Muslims will solidly support the grand alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress. Where does the BJP stand?
The propaganda against the BJP among Muslims has run out of steam. To say that BJP hurts peace is wrong. The Muslims, in fact, are attracted towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his agenda of development for all. His wish that he wants to see Muslim youths with the Holy Quran in one hand and a computer in another has gone down well and we will get support.
Don't you think that religion conversion programmes like "Ghar Wapsi (home coming)" launched by groups allied to BJP could have disturbed them?
No, I don't think so. Let us be very clear about it. These voices from small sections don't represent government policy at all. PM Narendra Modi's policy is very clear. He feels that every citizen of the nation has equal rights and these rights include freedom of faith.
Many prominent Muslim leaders have joined the BJP but they are apparently not being used by the party to woo members of the community. Doesn't it show that either you are confident of Muslim support or given up?
I am sanguine that the party will utilise their services at the right time. Moreover, these leaders have taken the decision to join the party with due consideration and now it has become amply clear that the BJP is the political home of all Indians. They know that PM Modi's mission is jobs, jobs and jobs for the poor and to improve their quality of life through social and economic empowerment.
What does BJP propose to do for the Bhagalpur weavers, who are starving for lack of governmental support?
The manner in which handloom and weavers' related industries have been revived at the initiative of PM Modi in Varanasi is the role model for what can be, and will be done in Bihar. Nothing has been done for these weavers so far by parties like JD (U) and RJD, which exploited their votes in order to grab power. They abandoned the weavers soon as the occupied palaces in Patna
Caste has remained central to Bihar poll. Your take.
Parties like RJD are trapped in politics of the past. Bihar, particularly its youth, demand politics of the future. Young men and women want a bright future, not the darkness of stale rhetoric. Youth across all caste and community will vote for a new Bihar.