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Here's why I think PM Narendra Modi is not anti-Muslim!
Well, cliche images are rock solid and can be difficult to break, and when it is about the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a lot of people will form their opinions against him, even before they begin reading this article.

Narendra Modi had to do a lot of work towards transforming his image to emerge out of the dark shadows of Gothra 2002 and project himself as a man of development. This conscious change of image by him was not achieved overnight, but through a gradual process which took several years, right from the time when he first assumed office as the chief minister of Gujarat to his third time being elected and eventually going on to become the Prime Minister of India with a land slide victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The cliche image of Narendra Modi projected by all his political opposers is that he is hard core anti-Muslim. The image formed about him can be attributed to two basic facts. Firstly, that he started his political career as an RSS pracharak, and RSS is perceived by most as a Hindu fundamentalist organisation. And secondly that the 2002 Gothra riots in which at least 1,000 Muslims were killed, happened during his regime in Gujarat.

But they say that statistics never lie, and if the (NSS) National Sample Survey's report which came out in 2014 is to be believed, Gujarat and Kerala emerged as the only two states in India where poverty among Muslims, both in urban as well as rural areas had drastically declined in the last seven years.

The committee which was formed during the UPA 2 regime under Dr Amitabh Kundu analysed state-wise statistics and published a research paper which was part of the committee's final report which was submitted to the Central government in June, 2014, just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Not much hype was allowed to be created around this report by the ruling government as it could have made a drastic difference in election results.

The findings of Dr Kundu suggested that in Gujarat the number of Muslims below poverty line (BPL) fell from 31 per cent in 2004-05 to a mere 7 per cent in 2011-12. Meanwhile, the maximum per capita expenditure (MPCE- an indicator of economic growth) of Muslims in rural Gujarat went up from Rs 209 to Rs 291, and in urban Gujarat, it shot up from Rs 250 to Rs 328 in the last seven years.

In a sharp contrast, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which had almost 50 per cent of Muslim population below the poverty line in 2004-05, in the past seven years it only improved up to one-third, and the same was the case of two other states of Bihar and West Bengal.

Dr Kundu, who is retired from the JNU had said, "I am neither a BJP supporter not a Narendra Modi fan, but as far as the welfare of the Muslim community is concerned, the facts say that Gujarat did much better in the past seven years compared to other states."

But is it a mere coincidence that Muslims in the state of Gujarat prospered more or some serious developmental work was carried out by the ruling government?

Take the example of Salaya town in Jamnagar district of Gujarat, which has a Muslim population of 90 per cent. In February 2013, a member of the local corporation and one time Congress representative, Salem Mohammad Baghaad after joining the BJP, won 26 seats in the corporation.

Mr Baghaad said, "Honestly, joining the BJP was a tough decision for me. But I was confident about myself, about my decision. I knew if I joined hands with Mr Modi, it will mean more benefits for the town and more development."

After Mr Baghaad joined BJP in 2010 and won the nagarpalika or municipal polls, suddenly his town Salaya started seeing development, as the party started pulling in more funds. For people like Baghaad, doubts of affiliating with Modi were far outnumbered by fear of being excluded from Gujarat's development.

On last Sunday PM Modi gave another example of his religious tolerance while addressing an election rally in Kharagpur in West Bengal. He took a pause of almost five minutes on hearing the sound of azan from a nearby mosque, only resuming after the azan ended. He said, "I do not want to interrupt anyone's prayers. So I decided to take a brief rest."

It is easy to be cynical and keep ignoring facts, but the bitter truth is that political untouchability is an alien concept in our country. Even bitter rivals can shake hands for power, Lalu-Nitish are a more recent example. Even India's oldest party Congress decided to become the junior most partner of an alliance in Bihar, just to have some chance of winning seats in the state assembly elections.

The harsh reality of our nation today is that we need development and total eradication of poverty, rather than thinking on the lines of religion. There is no point in living in the past. Time never stops for anyone, we either move forward or we move backwards, the choice is completely ours. The correct path at the moment is only development, and the man who seems to have a solution right now is none other than Narendra Modi.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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