BJP bid to woo Muslim voters by sufi seers and Shia scholars in Gujarat

By Abdul hafiz lakhani:

For a leader who had single-handedly steered BJP to three Assembly election victories in Gujarat — in 2002, 2007 and 2012 — Modi’s reliance on leaders from outside for the first time is an indication that the ground realities are changing and that the BJP is in for a tough battle. BJP sources admitted that the primary reason the Gujarat elections will be tough this time is that Modi is no longer the Chief Minister of the state and BJP is in power at the Centre. Now even, so called Muslim seers and religious leaders are helping BJP in Gujarat.

More help could be coming for BJP ahead of Assembly elections in its bid to woo Muslim voters. Sufi seers and Shia preachers from Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country are likely to land in Gujarat to campaign for the saffron party in coming days. They may canvass for BJP in 35 to 40 constituencies that have a sizeable number of minority community voters. “A section of Sufi as well as Shia communities is leaning towards the BJP.

The party’s victory in UP substantiates the fact that they have voted for it there. Their representatives can speak about development work done by BJP in UP,” said a source in the party. He added that it was likely that religious leaders from other parts of the country too would arrive for campaigning. However, Sufi Mehboob Ali Chisti, president of BJP minority cell, said, “We have not invited or planned to invite any Sufi or Shia preachers in Muslim areas but they are free to come.”

Meanwhile, a Sufi NGO has organised marches of Sufi and Hindu religious leaders November 15 onwards, claiming to spread the message of communal harmony. However, the organizer claims that the programmes are not for any party’s election campaigning. “We see political parties trying to create a divide based on caste and religion ahead of elections, because of which people have to suffer.

We have organised various programmes from November 15, where we will meet people and spread the message of communal harmony,” said Anwar Shaikh, president of Muhibban-E-Ahlebait Foundation. “Nobody can deny that days of communal conflict and curfew have gone. Muslim traders do business in Hindu localities without any fear,” he said. Replying to a question on whether the programme would help the saffron party, Shaikh, “We are not aligned with any party. We work for communal harmony.” BJP to woo Muslims harder The party has planned to organise huge public meetings at seats where the Muslim votes could make a difference. This is besides the small rallies in other Assembly constituencies.

“As of now, we have decided to hold public rallies in all 182 constituencies in the state. We have also collected data of 36,000 Muslim women who favoured triple talaq issue when it was pending before the Supreme Court. We will also have a conference for Muslim women,” said a source from BJP minority cell. Sufi Mehboob Ali, president of BJP minority cell, said, “We will hold big public meetings in 35 to 40 constituencies where Muslim votes will be crucial.”

Sources also said the PM’s reliance on leaders from outside to shoulder the campaign responsibility — External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje — also indicate that the ground situation is not favourable. He also said the Gujarat BJP’s tactic also indicated paucity of local leaders. “There is not much state leadership left. Modi had ensured that and we are now seeing the result,” he said

There are 34 Assembly seats in Gujarat where Muslims are at least 15% of the population. In 2012, BJP won 21 of these seats, Congress won 12 and Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) managed to win one seat. If one look at percentage of seats won then it is BJP 62%, Cong 35%, and NCP 3%. Compare this to all the seats won at the state-level by parties at 63%, 34%, and 1% respectively, and you will see that BJP is at a slight loss here.