Shia Muslims in Uttar Pradesh likely to support BJP, say saffron party is inclusive and gave them important positions

Since the much-anticipated alliance between Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party was announced last month, many are awaiting a change in the political equation against BJP.

The root of such equations lies in the by-elections held last year, especially Kairana, where votes from scheduled castes as well as Muslim communities went single-handedly in favour of SP-BSP-RLD alliance, resulting in the defeat of BJP.

So, does this mean that such a strong consolidation of Muslim votes will defeat BJP in upcoming Loksabha elections? Shia Muslims of Uttar Pradesh do not think so.

Since Yogi Adityanath took oath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a large number of Shia Muslims have paid their allegiance to the outfits owned by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Shias are actively joining BJP, making the rift within the Muslim community even wider.

Soon after the crowning of Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Central Board was reconstituted, and the motive was that Shia Waqf Board will take care of the Shia Waqf properties across the state. Waseem Rizvi was appointed the chairman of Shia Waqf board.

Shia Muslims in Uttar Pradesh likely to support BJP, say saffron party is inclusive and gave them important positions

Representational image. PTI

With his statements and subsequent proposals, Rizvi made it clear that the Shia Waqf board will polarise the politics further. Soon after taking up charge, Rizvi proposed that a Ram Temple should be built at the disputed site in Ayodhya as Babri Mosque was a Shia mosque, and Shias want a Ram Temple.

Rizvi said, “We (Shia Muslims) were basically untouchables in the Muslim community. Rest of the community, which can be easily bribed for votes, did not give us the representation we deserve. They did not listen to us, nor let us speak.”

“But BJP truly understood our power. There is no shame in accepting that since BJP came to power at the Centre and in UP, Shias got to say about their expectations and agendas,” said Rizvi.

Rizvi has recently directed-produced a feature film named Ram Janmbhoomi and has acted in the same as lead. The poster features a Muslim man with a skull cap, with an SMG in his hands, looking at the Ram Temple. The trailer of the film is equally controversial.

Rizvi’s remarks have been very ‘popular’ on social media as well. Starting from gifting silver arrows to the Ram statue in Ayodhya to flattening the Humayun’s tomb in Delhi for making a hospital, Rizvi makes sure that his remarks are controversial enough to make it up to the charts. He said, “What we have been saying is the truth. We are asking for a more inclusive and peaceful society, and it can only happen when we give Hindus what they deserve.”

He once also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for closing all madrassas across the country.

Bukkal Nawab is another such Shia leader who has devoted himself fully towards the party operations. Nawab, once a veteran leader of Samajwadi Party and close aide of Mulayam Singh Yadav, officially joined BJP in 2017 and was elected as MLC last year.

Now, Nawab is so important a figure in BJP that his poster decorates the entrance of BJP office in Lucknow.

“What I have noticed about BJP that it is actually working on its motto of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’. And irrespective of the criticism, they have really taken a large sect of Muslims with them as well," he said.

Nawab may not represent the Muslim community as a whole, but it is sure that his voice is creating a rift between Muslims of the state.

Gurfan Ali, a 42-year-old businessman from Barabanki, said, “I am Shia, and I feel connected to BJP. Not only because I see many of the Shia leaders connecting with BJP and getting top positions, but also because Sunni sect has sold itself for appeasement politics. And they don’t feel that the Muslim community is feeling ashamed of this act.”

When questions about whether this is also appeasement are raised, Ali responded, “I think no. Because we are getting platforms to speak, and even if this is, it could be a good one because we were not appeased before.”

Bukkal Nawab tried to explain, “The good thing with BJP is that it does not ask for votes from Muslims, but it gives importance and positions to Muslims. And now, Muslims should also try to come into the mainstream, enough of this shallow and low-scale politics they are pursuing.”

India has a vast legacy of Shia Muslims. Ranging from Nawabs of Awadh — to which Bukkal Nawab belongs — and Nawabs of Rampur, many of the artists and writers including Kaifi Azmi, Bismillah Khan, Kamal Amrohi, Syed Haider Raza and Maqbool Fida Hussain.

Earlier, the Shias were independent and artisans. Now, most of them are aligned with either BJP or its different organisations. BJP has most such leaders on key positions, including Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The party is likely to gain momentum on some seats of Uttar Pradesh, where Shia Muslims form a deciding factor. Mohammad Imran, a 41-year-old contractor based in Lucknow, said, “There is no doubt that a large part of Muslims has been voting for BJP, but that voting has been dismal. If the current trend of attracting Shia would continue, we could see a large scattering of Muslim votes on many seats.”

But for Navaid Hamid, the president of All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat — the biggest Islamic organisation in the country — these factors do not count. He said, “I cannot comment on where Muslims should vote and where they should not. This is totally on them. But I am certain that RSS and BJP can daydream if they can consolidate Muslim votes in their favor.”

If only Shias would go to vote in favour of BJP in large numbers, BJP’s core vote bank along with Shia votes will certainly give it a lead which it is hoping for. Yasoob Abbas, the spokesperson of Shia Personal Law Board, said, “Many Shia figures could be aligning with BJP, and it is totally their prerogative. But the fact must be taken into account that they don’t have any vote bank behind them.”

Abbas further said, “Their remarks have only created a rift within the Muslim community, and now, new secular political equations are emerging, the road is much tougher for them.”

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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2019 21:06:34 IST

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