Rajat Sharma


AKB30 First of all, New Year greetings to all of you. This year will witness one of the world’s largest elections in history. The contest is between BJP-led NDA and Congress-led INDIA alliances. Already both camps have started preparations. On Tuesday, BJP announced its slogan, “Teesri Baar Modi Sarkar, Ab Ki Baar 400 Paar”. BJP has chalked out a strategy to achieve its target of 400 Lok Sabha seats. BJP will be trying to win the support of Muslim voters this time. Party workers have been asked to reach out to all Muslim families at the polling booth level. Muslim families who have benefited from a plethora of Modi government’s welfare initiatives will be targeted. BJP workers will be reaching out to voters in states with different names – “Shukriyaa Modi Bhaijaan” in UP, “Modi Dada” in West Bengal, “Modi Bhau” in Maharashtra and “Modi Anna” in Tamil Nadu. The tag line will be “Na Doori Hai, Na Khai Hai, Modi Hamara Bhai Hai”. Already, Prime Minister Modi has begun his informal launch of the campaign by visiting Lakshadweep, located 1,215 km away from Delhi, where more than 95 per cent voters are Muslims. BJP never won this parliamentary seat in the past. During his two-day visit, Modi told Muslim voters in Lakshadweep that he would continue to take care of their needs and aspirations. At a time when leaders of opposition parties are alleging that BJP is pushing its majoritarian Hindutva agenda by building the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi are inciting Muslim youths to come forward to protect mosques, Modi has surprised his rivals by changing tack. The Prime Minister preferred a night stay in Lakshadweep before launching projects worth Rs 1150 crore. He launched a submarine optical fibre project linking Lakshadweep to Kochi in mainland Kerala on Wednesday. Since 1967 when Lakshadweep became a Lok Sabha constituency, BJP or its previous avatar Jana Sangh, never won this seat. P M Sayeed of Congress party won this seat ten times consecutively. After his death, his son Abdullah Sayeed won. Modi wooing Muslim voters in Lakshadweep has sent a message to the entire community. BJP minority cell chief Jamal Siddiqui says, large number of Muslim women are now coming forward to support the party and they have written letters thanking the PM for putting an end to ‘triple talaq’ and providing them with welfare schemes. Similar feedback has come from UP, Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Kerala, MP and Rajasthan. In UP, BJP is going to launch ‘Modi Bhaijaan’ campaign from January 12 to reach out to Muslim voters. BJP’s UP Minority Morcha chief Kunwar Basit Ali said, Muslims had been merely vote banks for opposition governments in the past, but for the first time, Modi government has made no discrimination in providing welfare benefits to Muslim families. When he took over as Prime Minister in 2014, Modi had coined the slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas”. The same year during the Lok Sabha elections, Modi was my guest in ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ show, where he made the famous remark: “I would one day like to see Muslim youths holding the Holy Quran in one hand and a computer in the other”. Modi worked on this theme for ten years and tried to dispel all misgivings from the minds of minorities. It remains to be seen how far this outreach towards Muslim community will work during the forthcoming general elections. There are nearly 100 Lok Sabha seats in India where Muslim voters play a major role in the victory or defeat of candidates. BJP can touch the magical 400 figure in Lok Sabha only by securing the support of Muslim voters. However, the chasm between BJP and Muslim voters continues to remain deep, despite the fact that benefits of most of the welfare schemes of Modi government have also reached Muslims. Whether it is housing, or free ration, or drinking water supply, or Ujjwala LPG cylinders, or electricity, or bank loans, Muslims have also been the beneficiaries. Yet, during elections, Modi’s BJP failed to get Muslim votes. Gradually the perception of Muslims towards Modi is changing. Issues like mob lynching, hate speeches by some hardline leaders remain and Muslim voters still have fear in their minds. Opposition leaders realize this and they do not miss any opportunity in stoking fear in the minds of Muslims. These leaders are apprehensive that Modi may ruffle their political equations. On New Year Day, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi told Muslim youths in Hyderabad to mobilize and protect all mosques. VHP president Alok Kumar condemned his remark, while Union Minister Giriraj Singh said, “the jinn (soul) of Jinnah has now entered Owaisi’s body”. Singh alleged that Owaisi is trying to incite Muslims, but he must know that the DNA of both Hindus and Muslims in India is the same. It is no secret that Owaisi’s politics has always been focused on Babri mosque demolition issue and on opposing the building of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Owaisi continues to say that Babri mosque was, is and will always remain in its place. His remark may sound pompous now, because already the Supreme Court has given its verdict and the grand Ram Temple that is being built will continue to remain in its place. Most of the opposition parties have acknowledged this reality, and Muslims have also accepted the apex court verdict. The sooner Owaisi realizes this reality, the better, because inciting youths will not help. The city of Ayodhya is already gearing up for the consecration ceremony of Ram Lala idol on January 22.

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