Other States

BJP fine-tunes Muslim outreach ahead of M.P. polls

Some members of the BJP minority cell who quit the party.

Some members of the BJP minority cell who quit the party.  

Expert says the party’s prospects in local body elections in the State this month remain unhurt

The BJP’s insouciant response — or the lack of it — to minority members quitting in droves over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a unique challenge it is grappling with in Madhya Pradesh, has propelled a spiralling spate of resignations showing no signs of abatement.

But faced with a sturdy Congress government treading cautiously on policy matters, recent setback in the Jhabua Assembly by-election and its inability to whip up a sustainable offensive, the BJP has at last shed its reluctance to soothe minority members, with the exigency of the local body elections this month in view.

Denial mode

During January, the BJP’s State unit remained in denial mode, looking away from simmering resentment among its Muslim members — snubbed for flagging their exclusion from awareness drives on the contentious law, communal remarks during rallies and non-addressal of complaints. A sense of betrayal gradually sank in, resulting in more than a thousand resignations in Indore, Bhopal, Khargone, Guna and Satna districts. The biggest shocker was Jabalpur, where 700 members quit, virtually dissolving the cell.

On Saturday, however, when the party’s only Muslim corporator in Indore quit over the CAA, its response was different. “If not the backbone, the cell is a major wing of the party. Several leaders have called me and are ready to talk. They said all differences could be resolved amicably,” Usman Patel, a member for 40 years, told The Hindu.

This contrasts with the party’s dismissive response to the resignations of cell’s State secretary Akram Khan and media chief Javed Baig, who claimed even the State party president ignored complaints, and democracy was subverted within the party.

Pamphlets in Urdu

Moreover, State BJP media chief Lokendra Parashar confirmed besides Hindi, the party would now distribute CAA pamphlets in Urdu too. “Muslims are being misled. Therefore it’s important to convince their elderly, who make decisions for the community and read Urdu,” he said. From February 3, the minority cell began hearing out its grassroots workers, explaining the law to them, as “If we don’t understand the law ourselves, how will we make others aware?” said the cell’s vice-president Nasir Shah.

However, the Muslim retreat, would not hurt BJP’s electoral prospects in the local elections, believes Yatindra Singh Sisodia, Director, Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research. “Muslim population is concentrated in certain pockets of urban areas. The BJP didn’t enjoy popular support from the community even before the CAA, which may in fact have consolidated its vote against it,” he explained.

As for political dividends for the BJP owing to a possible polarisation on religious lines after the minority members quit, he said elections to panchayats and urban bodies were fought primarily on local issues instead. “Candidates contest panchayat elections without using the symbol of a political party yet are endorsed by them. In Madhya Pradesh, the pattern largely has been that results of the Assembly elections are replicated in local elections,” he said.

‘Incomplete loan waiver’

“The smaller the electoral college, the more personality-centric the contest,” said Rasheed Kidwai, Visiting Fellow, the Observer Research Foundation. “Farmers, irrespective of their religious identity, at present feel the pinch due to an incomplete loan waiver promised by the Congress in the State.”

A virtual two-party system in the State however, added Mr. Kidwai, forecloses the BJP option for Muslim aspirants now.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 1:38:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bjp-fine-tunes-muslim-outreach-ahead-of-mp-polls/article30785969.ece

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