Amid Hijab row, Modi talks welfare of Muslim women in west UP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach towards Muslim women is his second since his February 8 virtual rally in west UP when he had talked in detail about how scrapping the triple talaq (instant divorce practice) had ended their exploitation.
Amid the ongoing hijab controversy that started from BJP- ruled Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing his first physical rally in 2022 UP polls from Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, reached out to Muslim women, saying their bid to connect with the Bharatiya Janata Party was being blocked by the opposition, which was scared of losing their support.
Modi’s outreach towards Muslim women is his second since his February 8 virtual rally in west UP when he had talked in detail about how scrapping the triple talaq (instant divorce practice) had ended their exploitation. Thursday’s rally coincided with the start of the seven-phase UP polls from 58 assembly seats in 11 districts in the western region of the state. Long queues of Muslim women were seen outside polling booths in several of these assembly constituencies where minorities are present in large numbers. The next round of polling, too, is in west UP on February 14 when 53 assembly segments would vote. Together, these 113 constituencies in western UP have a sizeable Muslim presence. Modi’s latest pitch is being viewed as an attempt to confuse the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (SP-RLD) alliance supporters who are hoping for Jat-Muslim unity to defeat the BJP. Modi is also scheduled to address another physical rally in Kasganj on Friday.
“Participation of daughters in development march is a priority of my government. Muslim women who were freed from the exploitative practice of triple talaq know this well. The law against this practice that we made has provided a sense of security to the community’s women but, while the BJP started getting the support of these women who started posting videos in our government’s praise, the vote cultivators got restless,” Modi said.
“They became anxious that their daughters had started chanting Modi Modi and started getting cramps. Seeing their daughters’ statements and videos, these vote cultivators thought of stopping them from siding with me. They started thinking that if their daughters sided with me then they will start dominating the house, too, and hence these people are trying to mislead the Muslim women. But, my government is behind all exploited, oppressed Muslim women and that is why Yogi government is required in UP,” he said.
Earlier in his virtual outreach too, Modi had pitched himself as a leader who cared not about votes but about benefitting Muslim women.
“Despite criticism, I moved ahead with ending the triple talaq practice. I did not care about votes, I cared about the plight of the women,” he had said then, adding that his government’s decision to raise marriageable age of women to 21 years, too, would help Muslim women follow their dreams.
Modi had first raised the triple talaq issue at a public meeting in Mahoba, Bundelkhand in 2016, ahead of the 2017 UP polls. In July 2019, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill became a law, providing for punishment, including jail term for the person guilty of instantly divorcing his wife.
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Ever since, several Muslim women have praised the scrapping of the instant divorce practice. The latest among them is Nida Khan, the daughter-in-law of Islamic cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan from Bareilly’s famous Dargah Ala Hazrat, who joined the BJP in January and said several community women were willing to join the party due to Modi. Modi also raised the issue of sugarcane farmers in a region where pending cane dues have always been an election issue.
“My government is working on a long-term solution to your problem so that, irrespective of the global sugar demand, you always get good price for your produce. That’s why not sugar, we have also started producing ethanol from sugar and UP has got ₹12,000 crore from this already. This amount is being used for your welfare and, mark my words, more benefits will accrue,” Modi said.
The BJP – accused of playing up ‘Jinnah over ganna’ (Jinnah over sugarcane issue) – has stated in its manifesto that the party would ensure that sugarcane dues of farmers are cleared within 14 days of being re-elected to power in UP. In case of delay, the party has promised payment with interest – a promise that has been made in the backdrop of complaints of pending cane dues.
The main opposition Samajwadi Party, too, has promised to clear these dues in 15 days. The SP has said if required, it would set up a corpus for this even as the BJP has promised a ₹1000-crore fund to ensure MSP for crops like potatoes, tomatoes and onions.
The BJP and the SP are both promising free power and ensuring minimum support price to farmers for their produce. The Congress, which released its manifesto on Wednesday, is promising loan waiver to farmers, a key BJP poll plank in 2017 UP polls, within 10 days of coming to power, purchasing cow dung at ₹2 per kilogram and making record MSP purchase of wheat-paddy at ₹2,500 per kg and sugarcane at ₹400 per kg.
Modi, however, said that the opposition parties have been making airy claims as they are aware they won’t come to power.
“Double engine, double benefit, that’s what UP wants today,” he said, pitching the BJP as a party that has implemented the rule of law, ended riots, sent criminals to jail and cared for the poor.
“My government of the poor didn’t let anyone go to bed hungry even during Covid times,” he said.