For the first time after becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Sunday spoke about the welfare of Muslims and said they were happy in his state.
What’s more, he also pitched for Hindu-Muslim unity and reached out to Yadavs, making a strong case for a new social and political alignment for the largely ally-less BJP.
Modi, who continues to fight the taint of 2002 riots in Gujarat, was clear in his resolve to exorcise the fear of the minorities.
He asked whether Hindus wanted to fight Muslims or the scourge of poverty. In the same breath, he wanted to know whether Muslim youth wanted to fight Hindus or deprivation. “Poor Hindus and poor Muslims will have to fight together against their condition. Let’s unite to fight poverty.”
Modi cited the progress of Muslims in Gujarat’s Kutch and Bharuch districts as a proof of his commitment to work for the welfare of all sections.
“More Muslims from Gujarat perform Haj (sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia) than from Bihar because their economic uplift enables them to do so.”
Tearing into “so-called” secularists, he said, “I want to tell them, though Gujarat gets 4,500 slots for Haj, we get more than 40,000 applications. These come because Muslims are happy.”
Modi reiterated his mantra was development and accused “so-called” secular parties of spreading casteism and communalism, and dynastic rule.
He also opened arms to Yadavs, who along with Muslims, have traditionally backed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad in Bihar.
The appeal was couched in mythological reference to “Yaduvanshis” who claim lineage to Lord Krishna.
He assured Yadavs their interests lay safe with him because he valued their kinship with Krishna, “who belonged to Dwaraka”, which is in Gujarat. “We have to work together to realise Krishna’s dream for us.”
BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi addresses a rally in Patna. (AP Dube/HT photo)