Politics over burqa clouds Modi’s rally in Bhopal

An accusation by Congress general secretary and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, that a construction company linked to the BJP has sponsored 10,000 burqas for the party’s Karyakarta Mahakumbh to be held here on Wednesday, is sure to make Muslims the cynosure of the rally to be addressed by Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.

Mr. Singh claimed in Indore on Tuesday that Devendra Jain — a director of construction firm Dilip Buildcon — sponsored 10,000 burqas for the BJP’s Muslim cadre who will attend the rally. Dilip Buildcon, which handles several road projects in the State, is owned by Dilip Suryavanshi — a man considered close to the BJP leadership. The Income Tax Department had searched properties of Suryavanshi and Jain in 2012. Suryavanshi is currently being probed by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged money laundering.

Mr. Singh even produced a receipt from an Indore shop called Zeenat for Rs. 44.6 lakh, of which Rs. 42 lakh had been paid as advance.

The burqa “expose” comes days after BJP’s minority morcha State president Hidayatullah Sheikh said that Muslims would be told to “dress traditionally” for the rally as “the world must know that all sections [of society] are with the party.”

When journalists finally located the Zeenat showroom in Indore’s Bombay Bazaar, it was found that the receipt was in fact a quotation. While Mr. Singh’s receipt had the date August 23, the shop’s records had a quotation copy dated September 23.

BJP’s Indore strongman and Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya said the shop owner had complained to the police that his quotation had been misused. “The Congress does not want to do politics of issues and governance; hence it is raking up non-issues. I’ve asked the CM to keep an eye on Mr. Singh as whenever he says something, a riot takes place. He is frustrated and capable of doing anything,” he said.

The Congress secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Sanjay Nirupam, told The Hindu that his party’s intention was to “expose the pretentious acts of the BJP.” He added, “They want to create a false image that they care about Muslims. They will immediately forget them after polls. Making people wear burqas and topis is nothing but fooling them.”

Congress leaders maintain that Mr. Modi has no impact on the Muslim votebank, as the community “overwhelmingly” votes for the Congress. Yet of the three Muslim-dominated seats in Bhopal, two are held by the BJP. There are a dozen seats in the State with more than 30 per cent Muslim population. The BJP is expected to field its first Muslim candidate in 15 years in the next Assembly polls from Bhopal (North) against the Congress’s Arif Aqeel, the only Muslim MLA in the State.

Ratlam’s Independent MLA Paras Saklecha said Mr. Modi will drive Muslim votes to winnable non-BJP candidates. “Whatever inroads Mr. Chouhan has been able to make [into the Muslim vote bank] will be diluted by Mr. Modi. I have gained supporters after the BJP declared Mr. Modi its PM candidate,” he told this paper.

BJP leaders hope the Muslim turnout will be almost a lakh, of the total expected turnout of more than 7.5 lakh. The Mahakumbh is being held on the 97th birth anniversary of Jan Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya.At least 5,000 buses, 11 special trains and other coaches in other trains have been booked to ferry supporters to the rally on Bhopal’s Jamboree Grounds.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 2:42:20 PM |

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