New Delhi, Feb 18: Who said the name Narendra Modi only ignites anti-Muslim sentiments? Maulana Mahmood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind recently said that the outlook of the Muslims in Gujarat towards the state's chief minister was changing and several Muslims had voted for him in the last assembly elections.
"In Gujarat, Jamiat workers on the ground have told me that in several assembly segments, Muslims voted for Modi. There is a perceptible change and circumstances are different now... Muslims in Gujarat are economically better off than in several states which have so-called secular governments in power," Madani told a news channel.
The BJP came up with a good performance in the Muslim-dominated areas in the recent civic polls in the state. The party particularly boasted its result in Salaya, an area comprising 90% Muslim population but where the Congress could not win a single seat. In fact, all 24 minority candidates whom the BJP fielded in the municipal poll had won. The party also snatched 10 seats from the Congress and bagged 47 out of 75 seats.
Madani said Modi was no longer an 'untouchable' man for the Muslims, adding that the condition of the Muslims in states like Maharashtra and West Bengal, which are claimed to be run by secular governments is appalling. He also said that Muslims in Bihar were voting in favour of the BJP which is in alliance with the secular JD(U).
Madani's comment is significant for it was he who had played a key role in ousting Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, the rector of Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband, a couple of years earlier for his pro-Modi remark.
Madani's remark will undoubtedly boost the saffron brigade to go ahead to declare Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Though other Muslim organisations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) have slammed Madani for his praising Modi, the BJP leadership felt that Madani's remark was realistic. AIMPLB leader Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli said the 2002 Gujarat progrom could not be ignored and there was no question of supporting Modi. He was referring to talks that Modi might contest the next Lok Sabha election from UP.
Majority-minority debate will continue but what is significant is that it is the question of development which is gaining prominence over Hindutva. A section of the BJP leaders and the RSS have been seen chalking out a route for the revival of the Hindutva agenda, particularly after Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's 'Hindu terror' remark. The ongoing Mahakumbh in Allahabad was also brought under the ambit of saffron politics but despite all this, it has been proved that Modi's development model has indeed made the difference.
Madani's comment will raise concern for the Congress for although the latter has emphasised on 'soft communalism' to counter 'hard communalism', it is yet to find an answer to the development model.
The Congress leadership will be precisely perturbed by Madani's words for minority vote-bank is its biggest weapon in the prestige battle against Modi. Moreover, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had openly campaigned for the Congress during the Uttar Pradesh assembly election last year. This fresh stance of Madani's outfit is bound to raise many eyebrows in the Congress.
Sadhus, students and now minorities. Narendra Modi's appeal is covering more ground with each passing day. Can the Congress find an answer to the Blitzkrieg? And why not BJP announcing the Gujarat CM as its PM candidate straightaway?
The drama is getting intense before the next big polls.