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Lucknow: The Bharatiya Janata Party has announced its decision to field Pasmanda Muslims – who are considered severely disadvantaged – in Uttar Pradesh’s local body elections. On Sunday, October 16, the saffron party held a ‘Pasmanda Buddhijeevi Sammelan’ (conference for Pasmanda intellectuals) in Lucknow’s Christ Church College grounds.
Danish Ansari, the only Muslim minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, said, “In the upcoming local body polls, the BJP will give tickets to marginalised Muslims…”
“The BJP state president, Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary, has also given his consent to give tickets to Muslim candidates,” added the junior minister for minorities’ welfare.
When The Wire asked Ansari as to whether BJP would also field Muslim candidates in general and assembly elections, he replied, “It would be decided later as these elections are far away.”
Local body elections are slated to be held in November and December this year.
In the two last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, BJP did not give tickets to any Muslims.
In the last seven years, across two terms of its government, the party has appointed a total of two junior ministers from the Muslim community – Mohsin Raza (a Shia Muslim) in 2017 and Danish Ansari (who belongs to the Sunni Muslim community) in 2022. Both of them were sent to the Upper House directly after becoming ministers.
On Sunday, deputy chief minister Brajesh Pathak began his address to the conference by chanting the patriotic slogan ‘Madar e Watan Hindustan Zindabad.’ It must be mentioned that BJP leaders are usually known to use not this but the slogan, ‘Bharat Mata ki jai.‘
Pathak accused Congress and the Samajwadi Party of using Muslims as a “vote bank” while doing “nothing” for the community’s welfare. He said that the two parties do not want to uplift the Muslim community.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving all the benefits of government policies and schemes to the Muslim community without discrimination,” the deputy CM added.
Pathak addressed the Muslim community, “Now you do not have to be misled; stay with the BJP and with PM Modi.”
Images of Modi and Chief Minister Adityanath were, however, missing from the poster at the back of the stage. Deputy CM Pathak was the only party heavyweight whose image was on the poster.
“Pasmanda Muslims make up more than 85% of the total Muslim population. However, Congress, SP, and Bahujan Samaj Party have ignored marginalised Muslims and have not given them any representation,” said Subhash Yaduvanshi, state secretary of the BJP.
“Resentment has been brewing among Pasmanda Muslims against these parties who have ignored them, but PM Modi has been focusing on their development from the early days of his government,” he added.
Yadhuvanshi also said that “backward Muslims have played an instrumental role in the victory of the BJP” in the by-polls of Azamgarh and Rampur. “The victory would have been a pipe dream for the BJP without the support of the Muslim community, as their population is more than 50% in these towns,” he said.
Ghulam Ali Khatana, a Rajya Sabha MP, travelled from Kashmir to attend the conference in Lucknow. In his speech, Khatana said that the parties in power after independence used Muslims as a “decorative” item.
According to Khatana, PM Modi expressed concern about backward Muslims in the BJP’s high-level meeting at Hyderabad. “The prime minister directed party workers to go and connect with backward sections of all communities,” he added.
Khatana also claimed that the Article 370 – which BJP scrapped in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 through a unilateral decision – had been added to the constitution by former prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “to give privileges to a particular family.”
Kunwar Basit Ali, state president of the BJP’s minority cell, said that nearly 4.5 lakh backward Muslims were beneficiaries of free food grain distribution. “Nearly 80% of members of the BJP’s minority cell are Muslims who belong to the backward sections,” Ali added.
Ali also claimed that BJP was working to “modernise madrassas.”
Sabir Ali, National General Secretary of the BJP minority cell, said that secular parties are responsible for spreading “the fear of BJP among Muslims over the past 75 years.”
“Today, the lives of all Muslims are secure in the Modi regime. Their children are getting an education too,” he said, adding that the reason why BJP’s Muslim workers find it difficult to work within the community is because of a ‘wrong perception’ that secular parties seek to spread.
Professor Nadeem Hasnain, political analyst, believes that the conference is part of a plan to “divide the Muslim community.” opines,
“Earlier, they had tried to divide the Shia and Sunni sects but failed. This conference could also be an effort to make over the image of the saffron party, which is tarnished internationally because of its hate agenda against Muslims,” he added.
Leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Aasim Waqar, appeared to concur with Hasnain.
“BJP assembled some people who do not have faith in Islam and called it a ‘Pasmanda Conference. Muslims have never supported the BJP in the past. Neither do they support it now, nor will they support it in the future,” Waqar said.