BJP attempts to woo minorities before state elections

Written by | April 27, 2015 | 0
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is planning a special outreach to minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.
The move comes in the backdrop of growing criticism of the BJP for failing to rein in fringe groups for targeting minorities and at a time when efforts are being made by political rivals to forge a so-called secular front.
“We cannot deny the fact that the minority community is scared. The controversies surrounding issues like ghar wapsi have hurt the image of the government,” said a senior minister.
“There have been some attacks on churches, which have also hurt the government. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned those incidents,” he added. The minister spoke on condition of anonymity. Ghar wapsi, or homecoming, is a reference to the programme of conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism organized by right-wing fringe groups.
The last few months have also seen incidents of churches and Christian schools being vandalized. In February, Modi summoned Delhi police chief B.S. Bassi and urged him to carry out a speedy investigation.
Alienating minorities could be a political liability for the BJP, especially in states such as Bihar and West Bengal—both of which go to polls over the next six to 13 months—where they have the numbers to tilt the electoral scales. Assembly elections are due in Bihar in October-November this year, while West Bengal is scheduled to go to polls next May and Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
Senior ministers of the government want representatives of the ministry of minority affairs, including minister of state Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, to visit Bihar before the model code of conduct is implemented.
With Muslims making up 16% of the population in Bihar and 25% in West Bengal, elections in the two states will be a major political test for Modi, who is expected to lead the BJP’s campaign. “The idea to hold discussions with the minority community is to listen to the fears of the people. We are ready to listen to the criticism from the minority community. If we want to initiate a dialogue with the people then we should be prepared to listen to criticism,” said the minister cited earlier, a BJP leader.
A similar outreach is also being proposed in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is part of a coalition government led by the Peoples Democratic Party.
Naqvi has already visited nine states in the last 11 months.
“The government is very clear that people who are part of the government must reach out to members of all communities. It is like a mass contact programme of the government but we have decided not to publicize it much and let the message spread through word of mouth rather than advertisements and billboards,” the minister added.
While reaching out to the people, the government also wants to talk about its skill development initiative. “The government wants to set up a Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills for skill development in all states. The academy will give training to promote employment,” the minister said. The same BJP leader said that the government is also exploring the possibility of a soft loan package of Rs.1-2 lakh to enable those graduating from the programme to set up a business.
Experts are not convinced the outreach would succeed.
“The simplest thing for the government to make minorities comfortable is by controlling organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, which are sister concerns of the BJP,” said P.K. Datta, a political science professor at Delhi University. “The government should have stopped campaigns like ghar wapsi and ‘love jihad’ which have been consistently used by these groups.”
Filed in: National

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