Rivals Pad Up For the Big Battle

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Though BJP has some important Muslim leaders at the national level with at least two of them holding ministerial jobs, the party is still far from generating trust among the members of this minority community. They still see the party as communal and anti-Muslim. This minority community does not trust the Congress completely but their feelings of mistrust are much sharper and deeper in case of BJP. BJP cannot become a pan-India party without winning over their trust.

Led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi the Bharatiya Janata Party is gearing up for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls unless, of course, the elections are pre-poned. The focus of the party is on what is being described as mass outreach programmes.

While the Prime Minister has been taking every opportunity to interact with the people in various parts of the country ministers and party MPs will be out among the people to gauge their mood. They are supposed to gather useful feedback for the party ahead of the big battle. The party will concentrate more on constituencies where it lost last time.

In 2014, the BJP had won 282 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats, becoming the first ever non-Congress party to win a parliamentary majority on its own. Party leaders will aggressively promote developmental schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana that provides subsidized LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) households.

The party, though, still relies a lot on Modi’s appeal which stems as much from his commitment to the country and the BJP as from proven track record as an administrator. But there are critics who only point to his role as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man, the organiser of LK Advani’s Rath Yatra and the man under whose watch Gujarat burnt.

But he also has the image of a strong administrator and someone who is both incorruptible and not interested in pushing his own family. And in all this he emerges as a leader who is firm and decisive.

However, it is not easy to talk about the BJP without it being compared with the Congress record. From that point of view they have similarities as well. If the BJP is blamed for Ayodhya and Gujarat the Congress cannot be absolve itself of the responsibility for anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

The Congress, though, did something to heal the Sikh wounds by making Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister for two terms. The party has also made peace with the community in Punjab where it is ruling now.

The BJP has failed to do this in Gujarat where, according to political observers, no Muslim has been given a party ticket to contest in three Assembly and two Lok Sabha elections under Modi. Had that been done Muslims sentiments would have been assuaged.

Though the party has some important Muslim leaders at the national level with at least two of them holding ministerial jobs, the party is still far from generating trust among the members of this minority community. They still see the party as communal and anti-Muslim.

Not that the Muslims trust the Congress completely but their feelings of mistrust are much sharper and deeper in case of BJP. This remains an area of concern for the party which must ways of addressing the grievances of Muslims who constitute an important vote-bank. BJP cannot become a pan-India party without winning over their trust.

Sources in the BJP said that even Modi is worried on this account and the party’s mass outreach programme would also focus on reaching out to the members of this minority community

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