The election campaigns in India are certainly getting more and more nerve-wrecking as the parties are leaving no-stone unturned to woo all the communities and especially the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is playing different games altogether when it comes to appeasing the Muslim voters.
A few days ago BJPs’ Uttar Pradesh election campaign manager Amit Shah created a flutter through his inflammatory speech in a Hindu dominated region against Muslims, he was later banned the by Election Commission of India to campaign in U.P.
Now, on the other side party president and senior leader Rajnath Singh who is contesting elections from Lucknow constituency, (from where former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee contested, won and went on to become the prime minister of India) met top Shia and Sunni clerics from the city and asked for their support during the elections.
A Shia cleric even compared Rajnath with Vajpayee. The constituency of Lucknow has been occupied by BJP since the 1990s and five time Member of Parliament Vajpayee, still remains the uncrowned king long after he has faded from active politics.
And Rajnath Singh is clearly aiming to cast himself in Vajpayee’s mould in this multi-religious constituency, seeking acceptability from all the religions and a secular image for himself.
However, both Rajnath and BJP denied being calling this as communal meetings rather those were just courtesy meetings.
UP is a major player in national politics and with it also decides the fate of a large percentage share of seats dominated by Muslims, so wooing them seems to be the most appropriate option for BJP. And Lucknow with a voter base of around 20% Muslims, the community has to support the BJP if they are to to retain the seat.
Ever since the Aam Aadmi Party fielded Bollywood actor and a Muslim candidate Jaaved Jaaferi from Lucknow, several parties have sprung into action to weaken him by either fielding Muslim candidates or like the being the BJP, visiting every Muslim cleric.
A few Muslim clerics have earlier issued statements against Congress and had asked the community not to vote for them. Now with their meetings with BJP, and statements in favor of BJP from few leaders, BJP might surely relax and would not want to use its election campaign tag-line of ‘Abki Baar Modi Sarkar’ meaning this time Modi’s government in Lucknow, where they think they will be able to calm the nerves of the Muslim voters.
Modi’s refusal to wear a skullcap offered to him by a Muslim leader during a public event in 2011 is still a sign of his lasting image as a Hindu hardliner.
Interestingly, the BJP has not given a single ticket to a Muslim candidate in UP this time and has fielded only five Muslim candidates all over the country.
Uzair Hasan Rizvi is a journalism student at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India, He tweets @rizviuzair