With the denial of a Rajya Sabha seat to Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the BJP seems to be shifting focus from the Shia Muslims who were being targeted for entry into the BJP. The decision on Naqvi comes after the Uttar Pradesh elections where the Yogi Adityanath government’s Shia Muslim minister Mohsin Raza was dropped and Danish Azad Ansari, a Sunni OBC, was appointed minister in the state council.
The Central Minority Commission is headed by a Sikh, while earlier a Muslim Ghairul Hasan Rizvi, another Shia, was at the helm. Now sources in the BJP say that though the Shias are a minority within a minority except in Lucknow and some other pockets, the BJP is not able to make inroads within the community.
Political analyst Shakil Akhtar says, “It’s not about Shia or Sunni, the BJP does not need Muslims as the party has upped the Hindutva plank which has given political benefits to the ruling party.”
“The BJP had started roping in Muslims since Sikandar Bakht in Delhi, Ejaz Naqvi in UP, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Syed Zafar Islam and MJ Akbar were brought into the party outreach programme for Muslims but it is not required now even for tokenism,” he added.
Shakiluzaman Ansari, president of the National Momin Conference and ex-minister said, “the word minority is being used for other communities too but Muslims are denied the benefits – Muslims are two units, one is forward another is backward and all the benefits were taken by the forward 12 percent people, not the OBC Muslims.”
He said the BJP’s intention is not clear and it has only given to the forwards. The appointment of Ansari is tokenism and if the BJP has good intentions it should give participation in Parliament and the Union government.
Now the BJP is targeting the OBC Muslims who account for about 80 percent of the population. Naqvi though was eyeing a Lok Sabha ticket from Rampur which goes for a bypoll this month but was denied it. A senior party leader told IANS that in the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the BJP had got around five to seven per cent Muslim votes and the majority of them belong to the backward castes of the community.
“During the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the backward Muslim communities who benefitted from the PM Awas Yojna, PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana which provided free rations, Ujjwala Yojana and other schemes had voted for the BJP. These Muslims, especially the backwards, are openly supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now we are planning to further consolidate their support by reaching out to backward Muslims across the country,” he said.
The BJP feels that winning the support of a new vote bank will further strengthen the party’s position in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“For the next Lok Sabha polls, we are planning to get more than 50 per cent vote share and it can be achieved only by increasing party acceptance among new communities. Backward Muslims are one such community,” another party leader said. According to the party estimates, there is around a 85 per cent backward Muslim population across the country.
Another BJP functionary said that given the large population, which holds the key in electoral politics, the party is also planning to groom new young faces and give leadership roles to leaders from the backward or Pasmanda Muslims.