With an Eye on 2014 Polls, BJP Sets Out to Woo Smaller Muslim Parties
By Pratul Sharma - NEW DELHI
Published: 08th Dec 2013 09:54:13 AM
Small is big for the BJP. The saffron party which hardly got a share of minority votes is looking at the other emerging players in the electoral field—the smaller Muslim political parties. A document prepared by a BJP think tank, which The Sunday Standard is in possession of, has analysed the growing influence of these parties, their electoral achievements and lessons it offers for the next battle.
The document ‘Rise of Regional Muslim Parties’ has been circulated to BJP leaders on this recent emerging trend to formulate their strategy for the crucial 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The document details the rise of regional parties like the Peace Party of India (which won four seats in the last Uttar Pradesh 2012 assembly elections), Quami Ekta Dal (won one seat in UP), and the All-India United Democratic Front (AUDF) which won 18 assembly seats in Assam elections cornering 12.57 percent of the votes polled.
“In Tamil Nadu, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, won two assembly seats in the 2011 assembly elections; Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen won 8 seats in 2009 Andhra Pradesh assembly election and even boasts of an MP,” the document published by BJP think tank Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC) states.
The BJP, which has been desperately eyeing the Muslim votes, as the party is preparing a separate vision document for the minorities, is keenly watching the growth of these parties and even making attempts to woo the community. A successful example of this strategy came when 200 Muslim members of Peace Party, including its general secretary, M J Khan, joined the BJP in August this year in presence of party chief Rajnath Singh.
As the stage is set for the 2014 elections, the question that everyone is debating but no one appears to have a clear answer to is which way the Muslim voters will make the decisive choice.
The Congress with its welfarist measures and liberal doles to the minority community is laying claim to the largest chunk of their votes to keep BJP, particularly their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, at bay. The Hindi heartland socialist parties, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, are also aggressively wooing the minority votes, especially in Uttar Pradesh which has the highest chunk of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Muslims, who constitute close to 15 per cent of India’s population, play a vital role in over three dozen Lok Sabha seats. With significant presence in other constituencies, they can change the electoral mathematics.
Explaining these trends for the BJP, the document said though there has been rise of the regional Muslim parties, a similar party at the national level has been discouraged as a strong section of Muslims felt that the move could “aid the BJP’s agenda of Hindu-vote.”
“The surge of Regional Political Parties of Muslim reflects a new-found confidence in the minority community in organising politically with the community’s interests in mind,” the policy paper added.
The trend holds importance for the BJP as traditionally Congress, SP and BSP have been cornering large chunks of Muslim votes, but with these parties they could at least become game-changers in many Muslim dominated constituencies. And if not win elections, at least get a fair share of votes.
The other political parties discussed in detail in the policy document include Welfare Party of India, launched in April 2011 with backing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind; Social Democratic Party of India set up in 2009 that won several municipal seats in Karnataka, Kerala (14 seats), Tamil Nadu (62 seats) local body elections; Quami Ekta Dal, a party with “huge influence in eastern UP and one of the allies of Third Front along with Peace Party”; Rashtriya Ulema Council set up in 2008 in aftermath of Batla House encounter.
Giving an example of the growing power of these smaller players, the document states the instance of the Jangipur Lok Sabha by-poll in 2012 from where President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee contested elections. Abhijit won the seat by merely 2,500 votes. Two Muslim political parties WPI and SDPI together polled 66,274 votes, thus indicating their influence.
Talking about the document, BJP ideologue and director of PPRC, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, said, “The issue is important as in a secular polity although faith-based parties are not illegal, one can't ignore the impact of their existence. As it is, under first-past-the-post system, fragmentation gets fillip and hence impact of faith-based parties can’t be overlooked, which is why we had a short study conducted.”