In a bid to strengthen its position in the upcoming urban local body elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now decided to reach out to the minority community in Maharashtra and in this process the party has fielded a record number of Muslim candidates in towns such as Malegaon and Bhiwandi. As per a report by Indian Express, in Malegaon, where the Muslim constitute 79 per cent of the total population, the saffron party is contesting in 50 seats in the 84-member civic body. 30 out of these 50 candidates are Muslims. Similarly in Bhiwandi where Muslim voter percentage is as high as 52 per cent, BJP is contesting in 57 out of 90 seats and the party has fielded 18 Muslim candidates here.
Speaking about the same with Indian Express, BJP state working committee member Nitin Pophale said, “For me, personally, I believe the BJP has won even before the elections as we have been able to reach out to our brethren. The BJP has for long been unfairly criticised as being anti-Muslim. When the election process was announced, we had over 170-180 Muslims who approached us seeking tickets. This signifies a huge change in mindset and is truly a victory of our democracy.”
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The BJP has never been able to win the Malegaon Municipal Corporation as the city is dominated by parties such as Congress and Janata Dal. This is for the first time that BJP has nominated so many Muslim candidates from this region. The Indian Express report also highlighted that the BJP earlier decided to contest on 77 seats for which it had fielded a total of 57 Muslim candidates. However, due to various anomalies, the party had to withdraw many of its nominees.
“Earlier we used to put up two or three of our dedicated Muslim workers in corporation elections from Muslim-dominated areas… As a truly national party, it is time that we spread our wings and reach out to the Muslim community,” Pophale said.
A similar approach has been adopted by the party in Bhiwandi as well, where Muslims constitute nearly 52 per cent of the overall population. Here the party for the first time has put 18 Muslim candidates.