Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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‘Repay the favour’: In UP, BJP ramps up Pasmanda Muslim outreach, seeks votes from ‘labharthis’

Ghulam Ali Khatana, 1st Gurjar Muslim from J&K to be nominated to Rajya Sabha, face of outreach programme. Minorities used by opposition parties as showpiece, he said at the event.

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Lucknow: The BJP made Ghulam Ali Khatana, the first Gujjar (or Gurjar as they are called in Uttar Pradesh) Muslim from Jammu and Kashmir to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the face of an outreach programme for UP’s Pasmanda Muslim community in Lucknow Sunday.

The move comes in the run-up to the state municipal polls, likely to be held in December, and ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The term ‘Pasmanda’ — which means ‘the ones left behind’ in Persian — refers to OBC Muslims, comprising economically and socially backward members of the community. Pasmandas reportedly make up 80-85 per cent of India’s Muslim population, and form a considerable chunk of UP’s Muslim population as well.

At the Sunday event, its “first-ever declared outreach for Pasmandas” in UP, the BJP asked community members to “repay” the favours received by them in the form of benefits from the party’s welfare schemes by voting for it in the elections.

According to sources in the BJP, there have been similar events in the past, but the party did not use the term ‘Pasmanda’ in the title. It has been holding such outreach programmes for the community in several states over the past few months.

Claiming that opposition parties treat Muslims as “vote bank and showpiece at meetings”, the BJP asked the Pasmanda community to “support the one (party) which will ensure their development”.

While addressing the Pasmanda Buddhijeevi Sammelan, attended by members of the community and district heads of the UP BJP’s minority morcha, Khatana, a resident of Jammu, also told them to “inculcate a sense of self-respect”.

“The minority, Dalits and backward (communities must inculcate (a sense of) self-respect. They (opposition parties) consider us (backward Muslims) as showpiece,” said Khatana, who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha last month.

He also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of the Pasmanda Muslims at the BJP’s national executive meeting in Hyderabad earlier this year. “Those political parties which stayed in power for 70 years, consider Muslims as the votebank and showpiece at meetings. I want to say to them that minorities and Muslims, Dalits and backward (communities) of the country believe in the leadership of Modi.”

Claiming that the opposition’s allegations of the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir being anti-Muslim were wrong, Khatana claimed that previous governments in the former state and now Union territory didn’t amend the article not because of any favour to the poor and backward classes, but for their own benefit.

“But when Modi came to power, nine seats in the assembly were reserved for the Pasmanda community (a reference to reservation of seats for scheduled tribes in J&K under the delimitation of assembly seats here),” said Khatana.

He added: “Did the Congress and the parties emanating out of it, which call themselves the guardians of socialism, not see the Pasmanda Muslims in JK? Under the Modi government, political reservation has been provided in block development councils, district development councils and panchayats. Very soon, we are going to give reservation to the OBC Muslims in J&K.”

Two per cent reservation for other social castes (OSC) was provided in the erstwhile J&K state in 1981 by the then National Conference government led by Sheikh Abdullah. This was increased to four per cent in April 2020.

Talking about reservations in the Union territory, Khatana told ThePrint, “The major chunk of reservation was for RBA (residents of backward areas). Later, in our government with PDP (Peoples Democratic Party, the alliance lasted between 2015 and 2018), we made reservation for paharis and economically weaker sections. Now, there is demand from OBC communities (in J&K, for 27 per cent reservation), these things will take time.”

Stating that Islam and Muslims face no threat (under BJP-rule), he called upon the Muslim community to live peacefully with their “elder brother (Hindus)” and ensure their own development.

The gathering was also addressed by UP Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak, who alleged that other political parties used the community (Pasmandas) like tej patta (bay leaf), which is added for flavour while making biryani, but is later discarded.

Vahi haal in rajneetik dalon ne apka kiya hai (political parties have put you in a similar state)” he said, adding that after Independence, they were used as tej patta and dumped after their votes had been received.

Also read: ‘Shankhnad for 2024’: Why BJP chose Muslim-dominated Seemanchal to kick off Bihar campaign

‘No riot has happened under BJP rule, no Muslim in jail for riots’

Citing figures of Muslim “labharthis (beneficiaries)” who have “benefited” from various central and state government schemes, UP BJP minority morcha state president Kunwar Basit Ali asked Muslims to “repay the favour” by giving their vote (to the BJP).

“Wherever there are BJP candidates in the fray, you must repay the favour by giving your vote (to them). You have to become khuddar (self-respecting). Goodness should be repaid with goodness. If someone has done a favour, if someone has thought about you, you should think about him too, this should be the aim and intention of the Muslim,” he said.

Claiming that no Muslim was in jail in connection with riots, Ali asked the audience: “How long will you carry the ideology that used to make governments by getting you killed in the name of riots? Under BJP rule, no riot has happened, no sister or daughter has been widowed, no brother is in jail in connection with riots. The Samajwadi Party (SP) used to make Muslims fight with Muslims. Shias would fight with Sunnis.”

The BJP leader claimed that while 20 lakh Muslims have benefited from the Modi government’s Awas Yojana (for affordable housing), over a lakh had received Ayushmaan cards (for medical benefits), 40 lakhs have got electricity connections and there were a total of 4.5 crore Pasmanda labharthis under the Modi-Yogi rule (at the centre and in UP).

“Till now, 90 per cent of your vote would go to the SP, only 8 per cent would go to the BJP, but you are getting 30 per cent partnership in government schemes. For a population of 18 per cent, BJP has given 30 per cent partnership in government schemes. Earlier, 18 per cent population would get 9 per cent partnership in Samajwadi government,” claimed Ali.

He called upon all the morcha’s district presidents to go among the Pasmanda community and inform them that demands that they would raise with other parties were being fulfilled by Modi-Yogi.

Sabir Ali, national general secretary of the BJP minority morcha said that it was the community’s responsibility to walk step by step with the one person who is thinking about them.

“No PM has ever mentioned on an international level that Muslims of our country can never backstab the country and said that he wants them to have Quran in one hand and computer in another,” said Sabir, referring to a speech made by the PM in 2018.

Preparations for Lok Sabha, municipal polls

The BJP’s pitch to the Pasmanda community comes as it eyes 20 per cent Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2024 elections, according to the party’s minority morcha leaders.

Addressing Sunday’s gathering, UP Minority Affairs Minister Danish Azad Ansari said that the UP BJP president Bhupendra Chaudhary had said that the minority morcha will play a major role in the party’s ticket distribution in the municipal polls.

Speaking to ThePrint, a minority morcha district president told ThePrint that names of the promising minority candidates have been sought by the state BJP and been sent.

Asked if the BJP has decided on the percentage of tickets to be given to candidates from minority communities, UP BJP minority morcha chief Kunwar Basit Ali told ThePrint that they will fight on all those seats where Muslims can win and wherever they are a deciding factor.

He further said that in Lok Sabha polls, the Pasmanda community formed a sizeable percentage of voters in 20 per cent seats in UP and they have already started to reach out to 100 labharthis from each of these seats.

“In western UP, in districts like Meerut, Shamli, Bijnour and Kairana, Muslim gurjars are a big vote bank. They are effective in several Lok Sabha seats. There is demand for a similar meeting of Meerut with Khatana’s presence,” he said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: ‘Othered’ Muslim in Modi-BJP era: 3 essentials before mounting a political challenge to correct it


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