His refusal to adorn a skull cap and the burqa remark notwithstanding, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi apparently likes to see burqa-clad women and men with skull caps at his rallies.
It comes as no surprise then that the BJP is going all out to ensure the presence of a sizeable number of people from the minority community in traditional attire at the Hunkar Rally in Gandhi Maidan on October 27. “The presence of Muslims would be like the icing on the cake,” a senior BJP leader said.
The Bihar BJP is leaving no chance to make the rally a success and project Modi as a Muslim-friendly leader.
Sources in the party said the BJP is working hard to bring Muslims, who constitute 16 per cent of the electorate, to the rally.
A section of Muslims did vote for the BJP during the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. But the credit for that goes to its then ally, the JD(U), particularly chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Following the break-up of the alliance in June, the Bihar BJP realises the importance of having an aggressive Muslim population voting for it.
Thus, dedicated teams have been assigned the job of ensuring adequate Muslim presence at its Hunkar Rally.
Sources said the BJP has formed 27 teams of 7-8 members each to ensure adequate Muslims turn up from the districts at its Hunkar Rally. The teams have been told to ensure the Muslims turn up in their traditional attire so that the message is loud and clear.
Bihar BJP spokesperson Azfar Shamshi told The Telegraph: “We have issued invitations to Muslims. They will surely attend the Hunkar Rally in their traditional dress — women in burqa and men in scull caps — so that their presence stands out at Gandhi Maidan.” He further said: “We are carrying out door-to-door campaigns in the districts to bring Muslims to the rally.”
During Modi’s Sadbhavna fast in September 2001, a Muslim cleric had walked up to him and offered him a skullcap but the Gujarat chief minister had politely declined to wear it.
In July this year, Modi had accused the Congress of resorting to its “time-tested tactic” of donning a “secular burqa” when beset by a crisis.
BJP spokesperson Shamshi said: “There is a misinformation campaign by other parties to project Narendra Modi as anti-Muslim but the reality is just the opposite. Let the time come, Muslims will understand that Modi and the BJP are well wishers of the community.”
The Bihar BJP’s minority cell is busy in the run-up to the Hunkar rally.
State unit president of the minority cell, Sayed Khalid Rahman, said: “Muslims will come in large numbers from districts like Kishanganj, Saharsa, Purnea, Araria, Katihar and many other districts where their percentage is high. People should have no doubt that a good number of Muslims will turn up for the rally.” Party leaders have given special attention and booked trains from the aforesaid districts.
Three trains from Purnea and at least one each from the other districts would be ferrying BJP supporters in the run-up to to the party’s Hunkar Rally on October 27.
Shahnawaz Hussain, BJP’s prominent Muslim face and MP from Bhagalpur, has also been tasked to ensure Muslim participation at the Hunkar Rally. “No doubt, he is a very eminent and popular Muslim leader in the state and is working hard to bring people from his constituency. Two trains have been booked from Naugachia in Bhagalpur district,” said a senior BJP leader and former minister.
The leader of Opposition in the Bihar Legislative Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, said the rally would send a strong message to Muslims and others that Narendra Modi is the only solution to all problems, including the economic ones, created by the UPA government.
Nand Kishore said: “In Gujarat, the per capita income of Muslims is quite high, compared to that in any other state. Even the literacy rate of Gujarat’s Muslims is higher than that in other states.”