New Delhi, Feb. 25: Rajnath Singh today implored Muslims to “try” the BJP “once” and not get “misled” by Congress “propaganda”.
The BJP chief also said if there was a “mistake” his party had committed in the past, “I assure you that we will apologise to you by bowing our heads”.
However, he did not mention the one event that caused a near-irreparable breach between the BJP and the Muslims: the 2002 Gujarat pogrom after Narendra Modi took over as chief minister.
Rajnath obliquely defended Modi and alleged that the Congress was “playing vote-bank politics to defame Modi and the BJP”. He claimed the Congress had engineered propaganda that made out as though Modi had “ordered the massacre of all Muslims” that year.
The Congress, he added, was not prepared to accept the clean chit given to Modi by a court.
Addressing a convention here organised by the BJP’s minority front and the RSS’s Rashtriya Muslim Manch, Rajnath appealed to the community to vote for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls and form a government that would “provide a strong India, ensure respect for humanity and not allow any kind of hatred”.
“You have seen them (the Congress and others) so many times, at least try us once,” he urged. “If we do not come up to your expectations, don’t ever look at us again.”
On faith-based reservations, he contended that the Constitution did not provide for it. “Anyone who is poor should be given reservations, be it a Muslim, (or a) Christian,” he said. “Why use religion? Why divide people on the basis of religion?”
Speaking on the occasion, Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley said: “The clear distinction between the BJP and the others is that we do not treat minorities as instruments of political power. We treat them as equals and address their concerns as that of any other citizen.”
To prove that the party was not against minorities, Jaitley said that after the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, the BJP had a “more than comfortable relationship” with the community and ensured that several Sikhs were elected to state legislatures and Parliament on BJP tickets.
In the last Goa elections — in which the BJP had fielded a number of minority candidates — the “imaginary wall” between the Christians and the party had “collapsed”. In the 2013 Rajasthan elections, all the four minority members who got elected belonged to the BJP: two Sikhs and two Muslims.
“It is a pleasant lesson for us in the BJP that wherever we have put up several candidates belonging to various minority communities and tried to groom leaders from these communities, we have got a good response from the voters also,” Jaitley said.
The convention decided that the BJP would host at least a thousand such conferences across the country. The exercise was part of its “Modi-for-PM: Mission 272+” campaign.