New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Pasmanda outreach is being put to electoral scrutiny in the Delhi civic polls, scheduled to be held next month, with all its four Muslim candidates hailing from the backward community.
Of the four Muslim candidates fielded for the 4 December Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) poll, three are women — Saba Gazi (Chauhan Banger), Shamina Raza (Quresh Nagar) and Shabnam Malik (Mustafabad). Irfan Malik will contest from Chandni Mahal.
The term ‘Pasmanda’ — which means ‘the ones left behind’ in Persian — refers to OBC Muslims from economically and socially backward sections. The Pasmandas reportedly make up 80-85 per cent of India’s Muslim population, and form a considerable chunk of Muslim population in Uttar Pradesh.
Facing a stiff challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and an anti-incumbency wave after three straight terms in the MCD, the BJP is making several efforts to ensure a win this year, too.
In the 2017 MCD elections, BJP leader Atif Rasheed said, the party had fielded six Muslims of which two were from the Pasmanda community. Only five contested as the nomination of one was cancelled. All five lost.
“The Prime Minister has made several efforts to help bring the Pasmanda community forward. He is the only one who has at least thought about the community. I had not even dreamt about getting a BJP ticket but I was asked to contest. I am sure I will get the support of the Muslim community,” BJP candidate Irfan Malik told ThePrint.
He contended that the Congress always used the Pasmandas and the Muslims as a “use and throw” commodity. “They only think about us when it comes to winning elections. When it comes to taking decisions about the community’s welfare, they are nowhere. I am a simple BJP worker and still I have been able to get a ticket. This shows how the BJP functions,” he added.
Malik criticised the AAP and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for remaining quiet during the Tablighi Jamaat controversy two years ago. “They only believe in advertising and using Muslims for votes. When it comes to raising their voice for Muslim issues, they are nowhere to be seen,” said Malik.
Muslims constitute about 15 per cent of the total population of Delhi where several areas — such as Okhla, Matia Mahal, Seelampur, Mustafabad, Ballimaran, Babarpur, Sadar Bazar, Chandni Mahal, Abu Fazl Enclave, Sriram Colony, and Brijpuri — have a sizeable number of voters from the community.
In the 2015 Delhi election, the AAP gained the support of the Muslims who shifted en masse from the Congress to Kejriwal’s party. This time, the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Bhim Army are contesting on Muslim dominated seats and those reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community.
At the BJP’s national executive meeting in Hyderabad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi advised his party colleagues to reach out to deprived non-Hindu sections such as the Pasmandas who are beneficiaries of various government welfare schemes. In September, the BJP nominated Ghulam Ali Khatana, the first Gujjar (or Gurjar as they are called in Uttar Pradesh) Muslim from Jammu and Kashmir, to the Rajya Sabha.
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‘Give a chance to our candidates’
Giving an insight into Mustafabad ward, Shabnam Malik told ThePrint that 90 per cent of the people in the ward were from the Pasmanda community. “In the past, the people used to vote for the Congress but since PM Modi has talked about uplifting this backward community, people have started reposing faith in the BJP. The community also recognises that there’s someone who thinks about their welfare. We are getting immense support from the community and we are confident of our win,” said Shabnam Malik.
More Pasmandas getting the chance to contest elections shows that the BJP has started making efforts to uplift this section of the society, she added.
BJP OBC Morcha national president K. Laxman said the move shows that change has already started. “This is just the beginning. More efforts will be made to uplift the society,” he told ThePrint.
Elaborating on the strategy for the Delhi civic election, BJP Minority Morcha national media in-charge Syed Yasir Jilani said the party will highlight the Centre’s initiatives for the Muslims as well as its efforts to bring the Pasmandas in the mainstream.
“The party’s slogan is ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, and the BJP is working on this slogan under PM Modi’s leadership. This is the reason why the party has given tickets to Pasmanda Muslim faces. We are quite confident that they will emerge victorious. We will go to the wards and ask the community to give us a chance as they have already tried the Congress and the AAP which failed to deliver,” said Jilani.
During the BJP national executive meeting in July, party insiders said, Modi had asked the Uttar Pradesh unit to analyse the impact of the government policies on the Pasmanda community and to develop a plan for an outreach programme for them.
In its efforts to reach out to the community, the BJP made Danish Ansari, a Pasmanda, the junior minority welfare minister in the Uttar Pradesh government in March. Even the chairpersons of the state minority commission and madrasa board — Ashfaq Saifi and Iftikhar Ahmed Javed — are from the Pasmanda community.