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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Muslim women key to BJP’s minority outreach plan in UP

The ongoing drive aims to enlist nearly 1 million people from the minority communities, including an ambitious 500,000 Muslims.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2019 05:38 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Ever since PM Modi raised the issue of triple talaq at a 2016 rally in Bundelkhand, the BJP has been trying to engage with Muslim women. Party leaders claim many women have come forward to back to the BJP on the issue.
Ever since PM Modi raised the issue of triple talaq at a 2016 rally in Bundelkhand, the BJP has been trying to engage with Muslim women. Party leaders claim many women have come forward to back to the BJP on the issue.(AP)
         

Of many photographs that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s media cell in Uttar Pradesh releases regularly, a recent one stands out. It shows Sunil Bansal, BJP state general secretary (organisation), inducting a Muslim woman in a veil into the party during the membership drive that kicked off on July 6.

The ongoing drive aims to enlist nearly 1 million people from the minority communities, including an ambitious 500,000 Muslims.

The figure may sound unrealistic, given that the BJP has struggled to get even 100,000 Muslims into the party on record. But its intention to connect with the “aam musalmaan (common Muslim)” is not.

“I am with the BJP because it has done great service to the community by raising its voice against triple talaq and nikah halala, customs that exploit women,” says Gulistana, a Muslim woman from Aligarh who has signed up with the BJP.

Ever since PM Modi raised the issue of triple talaq at a 2016 rally in Bundelkhand, the BJP has been trying to engage with Muslim women. Party leaders claim many women have come forward to back to the BJP on the issue.

Bansal’s move to travel to a Muslim-dominated locality to draft in women from a community that has been apprehensive of the BJP is being seen as an extension of this outreach. “Edging closer to Muslim women is key to the BJP’s future plans,” says a party functionary aware of developments who did not wish to be named.

Two women from minority communities who joined the party have alleged being threatened by their Muslim landlord for doing so and gone on to file a police complaint. These women have been promised houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana.

UP has about 19% Muslims, whose combined vote in constituencies like Rampur, Budaun, Amroha, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, Kairana and Shamli, among several other places, is considered important.

Opposition parties, however, feel that the BJP is out to divide the Muslim vote. “They are dividing us. Don’t purchase any item from these traders who owe allegiance to the BJP,” Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Nahid Hasan was heard appealing in a video that is being investigated by the police.

“Our support is growing among all communities, including Muslims. Have you ever spoken to a Muslim who has got free gas connection, power, medical insurance and houses under the BJP? The satisfaction on their faces is to be seen to be believed, because they have so far been mostly taken for a ride by the Congress, SP and the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party],” says Mohsin Raza, UP minister and the Muslim face of the government.

The party’s good showing in the 2017 state polls and in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls has given it fresh hope of connecting with Muslims. It has two Muslim MLCs, Mohsin Raza and Bukhal Nawab. Both can be seen visiting temples and urging Muslims to join the BJP.

Lucknow-based Shazia Hasan, who runs Jamia-Uloom Din-e-Miswa, a madrasa for girls and is a women’s rights activist too said: “...if you were to ask politically, I guess there are certain apprehensions among the community at large. BJP has addressed some but needs to do more before minorities embrace it in large numbers.”

First Published: Jul 29, 2019 01:21 IST

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