BJP's Muslim face: Javed Sheikh | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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BJP's Muslim face: Javed Sheikh

mumbai Updated: Jan 28, 2012 01:50 IST
Kunal Purohit
Kunal Purohit
Hindustan Times
Kunal Purohit

At the gate number seven in Malwani, an unusual sight greets you - the Jama Masjid, flanked by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Office.

On entering the right-wing, saffron party's office young children donning skullcaps, conducting the Quran Khani - a reading of the Quran to ensure an auspicious beginning.

This is the election office of Javed Sheikh, the BJP's sole Muslim candidate so far in the 2012 polls. Sheikh will contest from ward 44, which covers a large party of Malwani in Malad.

Sheikh is also only the second Muslim candidate in the BJP's history in the BMC. A trusted BJP man, he has been in the BJP for 20 years. "People have misconceptions about the party and the way it treats Muslims. We may have many prominent Muslim leaders, but somehow, we haven't been able to win the community's trust," said Sheikh, currently the party's general secretary for the Minority Morcha's North Mumbai wing.

The morcha's state head, Haji Hyder Azam, said Sheikh's candidature could end these misconceptions. "The Congress has betrayed the community for years. We're asking for one chance. Giving more Muslims a ticket is a way to show people we are serious," he said.

The ward, currently represented by an NCP corporator, has a strong Muslim presence, which, the BJP hopes to tap into. However, sources said the competition would be tough, considering that the BJP candidate came a distant third in 2007.

When asked about the party's Hindutva image, and the controversies it has drawn in this regard, Sheikh feels that isolated instances cannot be the basis of judging the party. On BJP leader and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's refusal to wear a skullcap during his Sadbhavana fast, he said: "He has his own vote-bank to please. Hence, it was necessary for him to do that."

Though he called the 2002 Godhra riots a 'mistake', he said: "There have been many other riots under the Congress' rule. It's wrong to paint us as communal based on that on riot."