There is a sense of pragmatism informing its approach to reaching out to minorities, specifically Muslims, that form more than 19% of the state’s population, in that there is an understanding that the community will vote increasingly for the Samajwadi Party. However, there is a special focus on Muslim-dominated seats where it lost by a slim margin in the 2017 assembly polls, with an aim to convert them. The BJP has a Muslim vote share of just 1-2%.
The party is specifically focusing on those Muslim seats where it either won or lost by a margin of 5,000 votes or less. There are about 25 such seats, such as Saharanpur Nagar, where it lost to the SP by 4,636 votes; Najibabad, where it was behind the SP by 2,002 votes; and Dholana in Ghaziabad, where it was behind the BSP by 3,576 votes.
“More than 3 lakh Muslim families have come into the BJP’s fold, up from about 20,000 in 2017. Also, there was no booth presence of the minority wing until last assembly polls, but this time there is both booth and mandal level organisational set-up,” Basit Ali, president of the UP BJP minority wing, told ET. “There are 50,000 Muslim dominated booths and we are approaching them with the booth-strengthening strategy of the BJP.”
Ali said most Muslims are not concerned with either the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens issue or the law that prohibits forced religious conversion. On the other hand, he said, there is a 37% share of Muslim beneficiaries in the Ujjwala Yojana in the state, 39% share of the community’s beneficiaries in the Awas Yojana, among other welfare schemes, which is more than their population in the state.
Rafiq Ansari, the SP MLA from Meerut, dismissed Ali’s claims, saying, “Not just in the state, but in the entire country, minorities have been harassed by the BJP. They are only counting days when they can vote the party out.”