Thursday, April 10, 2008

When Burqa gets Saffron Band: BJP and Muslims

The photo shows a veiled woman who has also got the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Mahila Morcha's band tied around her head.

Just around 10 years ago it was extremely tough to find Muslims in BJP. Those who joined the BJP were looked down upon in the Muslim society.

A few years after demolition of Babri Masjid, particulary after 1995-96 Muslims slowly started getting into the party. Atal Behari Vajpayee, who had been forgotten, came back to the centre-stage so that the party could get more acceptability.

Many Muslim politicians joined it either due to lack of opportunity to rise in Congress or because they felt BJP is a much better option than Congress which had only exploited Muslims for half-a-century.

And when the party failed to prove its majority in parliament after a 13 day government, it again projected Vajpayee as a Mukhauta. More Muslims joined the party. Once aggressively anti-minorityism, the party also formed Alpasankhyak Morchas (minority wings) in all states.

And after the second failed attempt in 1998 when the NDA government lost by one vote, the attempts to reach out to Muslims also intensified. Remember the days when a group of Urdu poets was singing paens of BJP and Vajpayee.

Iftaars were organised. The days were gone when BJP had either a Sikandar Bakht or Arif Baig. Now it had so many Muslim leaders that in states there were fights over posts of Minority Commission, Waqf Board and Urdu Academies among BJP's Muslim politicians.

The anti-Muslim rhetoric was almost a thing of past. But still BJP never evoked the feeling of trust among Muslim masses. Their worst fears came true during the Gujarat carnage when the 'mascot' came off.

A couple of years down the line, many more Muslims have joined the party in the states at the karyakarta (worker) level.The RSS is almost ready to open its doors to the Muslims. Now you don't need to search for Muslims in any BJP meet.

In fact, 'daadhis', 'topis' and also 'burqas' have become common. Many Muslim workers say that Gujrat was an exception, after all, Congress didn't do anything during the Mumbai riots and the Ahmedabad riots of 1979 and all major riots in North India were during Congress regimes in the 80s, 70s and 60s.

Is it a convincing argumen. Only time will tell. But one thing is sure. BJP that was once a openly communal party, has understood the realities of modern India and almost become what the Congress was during the first decade after partition, when it was the sole personality of Jawaharlal Nehru that kept it from becoming a hardline right-wing party.

The BJP has shown crass opportunism by trying to get Muslims in its fold. Who can forget the promises of lakh of jobs for Urdu teachers by Vajpayee and other sops? In a pluralistic society like ours, it is unhealthy for a group of population to treat a party as pariah and for a national party to treat the Indian Muslims, who number more than 150 million, aloof.

There is definitely quite a lot wrong with its 'niyat' about Muslims. Didn't Rajnath Singh say that if the party came to power it will scrap all the pro-Muslim schemes of UPA (United Progressive Alliance). The party is still unsure how to deal with Muslims. It doesn't want to become a second Congress and lose its core Hindutva constituency.

The choice is for the BJP.

[Photo: It shows a Muslim woman in burqa with a Saffron band in the BJP's Sankalp Rally in Patna, Bihar]