Realising the importance of taking along the Muslims, who constitutes a good 12 per cent of the electorate, in determining the outcome of the upcoming Assembly elections, Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel has literally handed out an olive branch to the community by organising a Convention for Muslims at Talkatora Stadium here on Sunday.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Goel said: “The idea behind the convention is to tell the Muslims that they should shed their inhibitions about the BJP and give the party a chance as it has always worked hard for the welfare of all communities, including the Muslims.”

Earlier this month too, Mr. Goel had tried to reach out to the community when he had visited the India Islamic Cultural Centre and addressed a large number of people there. “It is after many years that such a convention has been organised for the Muslims by the BJP and I am confident that they would see reason in aligning with the party, which has often been wrongly criticised by its opponents,” Mr. Goel said, adding that the agenda for the convention is to discuss and present a specific programme on providing better education and employment opportunities for the community. “In the convention, the party will be presenting a positive action plan for the community,” he added.

Mr. Goel, who took over the reins of the party around four months ago, said it has been focussing on specific groups and has already organised a major lunch for Dalits, a convention for the youth and public meetings focussed on villages and unauthorised colonies. “We are no longer into a strategy of just holding protests at Jantar Mantar,” he quipped.

In fact, Mr. Goel claimed, it was in the wake of the concerted programmes organised by the Delhi BJP – be it in relation to power tariffs or water supply – that has made the ruling Congress jittery and prompted its vice-president Rahul Gandhi to himself oversee party meetings. “The Congress does not know where to look and the recent change of guard of AICC in-charge of Delhi is an indicator of the unease in the party,” he said.

As for the Muslim convention, Mr. Goel said it would highlight how the community has been facing a number of hurdles when it comes to their socio-economic development. “The literacy rate among the Muslims is much below than the average literacy rate of the city. The employment opportunities are also few and far between for them as the education they are getting is not linked with skill development. The BJP feels it is time to go for course correction and focus on these issues if we really want to ensure the welfare of the community.”

Mr. Goel also claimed that the BJP’s words did not lack substance as during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government at the Centre a number of steps were taken for welfare of the Muslims, including an ambitious programme for modernising madrassa education and special programmes for generating employment opportunities for the community.

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