Further, the former Deputy Prime Minister also suggested evolving a ‘Common National Commitment to Good Governance- of tomorrow's NDA Plus’. Interestingly, out of the eight elements he suggested, three points directly related to the minorities.
They included complete and earnest assurance to preserve communal peace, promote communal harmony and strengthen national integration, promote social justice with social harmony and give economic reforms a demonstrably pro-poor thrust, with innovative policy initiatives for farmers, landless workers, workers in the unorganised sector, SCs, STs, OBCs and the poor among the minorities.
While all these have been interpreted by many analysts as attempts to prevent Muslim consolidation against the party in the upcoming elections and project a moderate face to woo new allies, the fact also remains that the BJP cannot ignore almost 13.4 per cent of the country's population (Census 2011), not only to increase its allies but also because the minorities matter in electorally crucial States such as Uttar Pradesh (18.5 per cent), Bihar (16.5 per cent), Assam (31 per cent) and undivided Andhra Pradesh (14 per cent), where the party has a significant presence.
Over a decade since then party chief Bangaru Laxman's (who passed away unsung recently) landmark “Muslims are the blood of our blood” speech at Nagpur and a stint in office with little to write home about on the minorities welfare front, the party will have to reach out to the real representatives of the community.
Paying lip service to the concerns of the minority community as against the vote-bank politics of other parties won’t suffice. BJP-ruled States should become role models in the socio-economic emancipation of the Muslims, including modernisation of madarsas, education of children, particularly girls and ensuring proper utilisation of the Waqf property for the benefit of the community at large, as against vested interests and individuals.
More importantly, BJP Governments should recognise and isolate the Wahabi elements and strengthen the hands of the peace-loving and patriotic Sunni Sufis. The growing influence of Wahabism is a threat not only to the country but also the Sunni Sufi traditions, which have contributed immensely to our composite heritage.
Like any other Indian, the Muslim youths too want jobs, peace, safety and prosperity. They are no more enamoured by slogans of threat to Islam or with sops such as Haj subsidies. They are fed up with political parties patronising them and treating them as vote-banks.
Contrary to the stereotype image of the Muslims having a clinical hatred for BJP, the electorally proven fact that 10 per cent of the minorities in Gujarat voted for the party is only a small indicator of the deep undercurrents below and the changing dynamics in the community’s mindset. Therein lies the hope for BJP.