Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call to BJP workers to reach out to the minorities and the marginalised is clearly a tactical move, given the huge electoral stakes for the party in 2024. The BJP cadres, who have unfailingly decried attempts to pander to the minorities, received a lesson in inclusiveness and amity from the Prime Minister who urged them to include Pasmanda Muslims, Dawoodi Bohras, professional Muslims, Sufis as well as backward and marginalised communities in their contact programmes. The saffron party has made some progress in its outreach to Christians in Goa and the Northeast as well as to Sikhs and Parsis. Now the BJP Minority Morcha has identified 60 constituencies in 10 states and a Union Territory where minorities comprise more than 30% of the population. The party plans to launch a four-month programme here to spread the message of the Modi Government’s welfare schemes.
Although Mr Modi said this should not be an exercise to garner votes but to ensure that all sections of Indians receive the benefits of development, the electoral message is clear. Among the constituencies being targeted is Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad. The Bharat Jodo Yatra, launched by the Congress leader to counter what he calls an atmosphere of hate being created by the BJP/RSS, has rattled the ruling party with the unprecedented response it has received not only in the Southern states, but also in the Hindi heartland.
It remains to be seen if Mr Modi’s warning to the cadres at a closed-door session of the BJP’s National Executive meeting last week, to avoid speaking on contentious issues and stop criticising every new movie, is heeded. For the past several years, motormouths and so-called fringe elements in the saffron brigade have made the most outrageous comments and heinous attacks on minorities. Ahead of the Assembly election in Karnataka this year, where the narrative seems to be increasingly polarised, will the Prime Minister’s appeal to reach out to the minorities be complied with? After all it is the state where anti-minority rhetoric has peaked on issues such as hijab, ‘love jihad’, and a ban on Muslim traders outside temples. Violence is rampant in some communally tense districts. Mr Modi must ensure that the cadres do not pay mere lip service to his appeal but actually implement his wishes. Only communal amity can ensure that India achieves its potential.