Some within the party are calling it a self-goal. And more than one party leader admits it was a mistake raking up the issue of “Love Jihad” in politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh.
Several leaders now say that Uttar Pradesh party president Laxmikant Bajpayi went overboard in propagating the concept before the leadership in New Delhi gently pulled up the state unit. With byelections due Sep 13 to 11 assembly seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party was a divided house when its state executive met in Vrindavan.
Party sources say while it is fine to consolidate Hindu votes, one must be careful raking up issues that can communally polarise the state, and in the process alienate the politically uncommitted Hindu.
>On the first day of the Vrindavan meet, party leaders upped the ante on “Love Jihad” — allegation by Hindu outfits that Muslims marry Hindu women and then force them to embrace Islam. BJP leaders like Vinay Katiyar and Bajpayi discussed and debated the topic in the party forum and insisted it should figure in the political resolution.
Union minister Kalraj Mishra, who represented BJP president Amit Shah at Vrindavan, played along and appeared to be convinced that the slogan was a vote-catcher.
The tempo was scaled down only after a nudge from the national leadership — read Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Reliable sources say the central leaders were so miffed at the “Love Jihad” nomenclature that Home Minister Rajnath Singh flew to Assam, giving a slip to the Vrindavan conclave.
Meanwhile, Congress and Samajwadi Party leaders trained their guns on the BJP, accusing it of spreading communal poison.
BJP leaders now blame Mr. Bajpayi for being “overzealous” in public utterances. “Bajpayi has a penchant for melodramatic words in public discourse which should be avoided at all costs because they harm the party’s prospects,” a party leader said.
Added another leader: “This ‘Love Jihad’ is a non-issue. It will have no takers outside the fringe.”
Others pointed out that the BJP won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in May while harping on issues of good governance and economic development.
“Going overboard communally can lead to reverse polarisation,” a party leader said, adding that worried Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh would then rally behind one strong non-BJP party in every constituency.
A state executive member from western Uttar Pradesh pointed out that a woman party leader had herself embraced Islam to marry an already married man years ago. Both are from Bollywood.
While the state unit of the BJP continues to claim that there is increasing sexual assaults on Hindu women by members of another community, the “Love Jihad” concept has gone underground.
It will be left to groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal to take up the issue. On its part, the BJP will focus on development as it trains its guns on the ruling Samajwadi Party.
Saanya, a young woman from Rae Bareli who married a Muslim seven years ago, says she finds the “Love Jihad” accusation disturbing.
The resident of Indira Nagar here said that she coaxed her husband, Ali Hasan, to vote for the BJP in this Lok Sabha polls and now feels let down.
“Why are they raising such issues?” she asked. Like her, many others have raised the same question.
Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali, a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, says there is no such thing as “Love Jihad”.
“There have been stray incidents where conversions have been done for marital purposes but for that the entire community cannot be held guilty,” Mahali said. “The BJP only wants communal polarisation.”