After witnessing overwhelming response to his first-ever public meeting in Hyderabad last week as part of his mission to address 100 such huge meetings all over the country, Bharateeya Janata Party (BJP) campaign committee chief and Gujarat Chief Minister Narenra Modi seems to realized the need to reach Muslims and dalits to ensure success for the party in a majority of seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
In this regard, Modi set out some specifics before a meeting of national office-bearers, state presidents and state organizing secretaries held in New Delhi on Sunday. In an audacious outreach to Muslims, on BJP to connect with the minority community, saying that if around 25% of minority voters had supported the saffron party in his state, the same could be possible in other parts of the country.
In a move that is bound to see his critics level the charge of political opportunism, Modi said that as many as 100-odd Muslim councilors had won in Gujarat local body elections on BJP tickets. This was due to BJP's efforts to reach out to poor and backward Muslims, he said.
Setting out "272-plus" as the ambitious target for BJP, to return power on its own, his emphasis was seen as an attempt to correct or soften a hard saffron image. The BJP's prospective prime ministerial candidate exhorted his party not to exclude sections among minorities who remain unrepresented and are searching for an identity of their own. "We should not divide communities but ensure all sections are represented," he is understood to have said.
The Gujarat example may rile his rivals, but Modi insisted that BJP benefits from a significant section of Muslim voters who have been convinced of the party's credentials. The approach has shown results in local body elections with the election of Muslim councilors.
He offered a similar analysis for other communities, saying there were sections within dalits as well who went largely unrepresented and who could be brought to the BJP fold. His emphasis on leaving no vote untapped was encapsulated in his setting "272-plus" as the target for BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Till now both Muslims and dalits are mostly keeping away from BJP. A sincere attempt was made to win over these two sections during NDA regime by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by making veteran dalit leader Bangaru Lakshman as president of the party. During his presidential address at Nagpur session of the BJP, Lakshman made fervent appeal to Muslim community to join hands with BJP by stating that “though we are different by religion our blood is same”.
Vajpayee experiment also started yielding results with overwhelming number of dalits rallying around him, particularly in Northern states. Efforts were also started to woo Muslims. However, those efforts remained short-lived with Bangaru Lakshman became victim of political conspiracy and forced to step-down. Since then he was sent out from the mainstream leadership of the party.
Bangaru Lakshman’s exit from party leadership was seen by many political observers as BJP’s refusal to accept dalit leadership. Now many parties hesitating to join hands with BJP, particularly if Narendra Modi is chosen as its Prime Ministerial candidate feraing that such a step would force Muslims to go away from them. That was the prime reason Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s exist from NDA.
It seems now Narendra Modi realized that his popularity among Indian voters may not sufficient to get 272 plus seats in Lok Sabha as BJP lacking support from vital sections of the society Muslims and Dalits. That’s why, it seems now he is focusing to attract these two sections. Since independence for a long these two sections remained as loyal supporters of Congress.
However, since 80s those sections started to leave Congress and supporting various parties in each state. Emergence of Bahujan Samaj Party as a major force for Dalits and Muslims started supporting parties like Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, Rastreeya Janata Dal in Bihar and JD (S) in Karnataka.
Though Congress is making sincere efforts failing to win back those sections all over, though party is succeeding here and there. Due to losing their support only, Congress failing to emerge as a major political party in big states likes Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
Till now Modi is confident that the hype created on his leadership would help BJP to return to power at the Center. But it seems now realizing ground-level situations, he told his party that unless sincere efforts are made to win confidence of new sections, it would be impossible to grab power at the center.
In this connection, the appeal made by BJP and Viswa Hindu Parishad leaders to Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh to negotiate with Muslim leadership for a compromise on the issue of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the major contentious issue between Hindus and Muslims in the country. As Yadav is having cordial relationship with the Muslims, they felt his involvement will help for a amicable solution.
This also reflecting the changing attitude among Sangh Parivar that no longer radical image helps them to win confidence of various sections of the population. Now people are looking for performance and result-oriented efforts, but not mere emotional slogans.