The Bhartiya Janta Party always had its share of success in polls with major emphasis on Hindu votes. However as Gujarat poll campaign is heating up with Congress and Hardik Patel-led PAAS giving a formidable challenge to the ruling party, BJP is trying to woo Muslim voters. This was evident when members with saffron scarves around their shoulders met those with skull caps in Limbayat, near Surat. According to The Indian Express, during the conversation, BJP minority leader Dr Azam Raza, who approached the Muslim community, asked them to chose between Congress and BJP. The constituency is communally sensitive. The BJP has sent its minority leaders to woo a large Muslim population, who make up about 30% of the electorate in Limbayat. The area had seen arson and rioting last January after a severed head of a calf was found on the road.
Also, around 100 members of BJP’s minority morcha unit from Mumbai left for Surat on Sunday under the leadership of its national vice-president Irfan Ahmed for campaigning.
In Khadia-Jamalpur constituency of Behrampura area, BJP leader and former minister Girish Parmar greeted a gathering of Muslims with “Assalamu alaikum!” at a party event called ‘Sadbhavna’ meeting on Sunday evening. His greeting was instantly reciprocated by the audience. Parmar said that it was absolutely unimaginable for the BJP even to think of fielding a candidate from Khadia-Jamalpur constituency ( where Muslim voters are 61 percent). But things have changed and now he was happy to welcome new (Muslim) entrants in the BJP in this constituency. He also told the Muslims that they were his “family” and not just voters.” Parmar also claimed that he has a database of 48,000 voters with whom he has been in contact for the last five years. “If I have hurt you in the last five years, vent your anger against me but no against the BJP when you cast your vote,” he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
According to The Hindu, the BJP is also trying to woo the Muslim voters via the Rashtriya Muslim Manch, an arm of the RSS, and an assortment of nearly 50 Muslim clergy is expected to arrive in Gujarat from the various BJP-ruled States in the run-up to the polls.
Muslims have largely kept aloof from the BJP in Gujarat, particularly after the 2002 riots. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then State chief minister had famously refused to wear a skull cap from a Muslim delegation during his three-day “Sadbhavna” fast in Ahmedabad in 2011.
The BJP has not fielded a Muslim candidate for years in many states. But the party has been inching closer to Muslim leadership and meeting them frequently. Ahmedabad-based businessman Zafar Sareshwala, who was seen as Modi’s outreach to the Muslim community, was appointed Chancellor of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, by the NDA Government in 2015.