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Muslims lukewarm to BJP overtures

By Our Staff Correspondent

MANGALORE, MARCH 28. With elections less than 30 days away, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making efforts to woo the minorities, particularly the Muslims.

This was evident at the party workers' meeting held here on Saturday and at Puttur where the BJP candidate for the Mangalore Lok Sabha constituency, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Srinath, film actor, and the party's district unit President, Pratapsimha Nayak, showered praises on the Muslims and handed over roses to some Muslim men and women who joined the BJP.

At the Mangalore meeting, Mr. Gowda, Mr. Srinath, and other leaders attacked the Congress for "reserving" the Muslim votes. But in the 50 years of Congress rule, Muslims were given a raw deal, they said. They pointed out that Muslims lived in ghettos and had been segregated from the mainstream.

The BJP seems to have woken up to the fact that it will not be able to retain the Mangalore Lok Sabha seat without appeasing the minorities, particularly Muslims. The issues that affect the lives of Muslims in the constituency have been given prominence by the BJP. It is even harping on the Indo-Pak cricket series and the good relations the country now enjoys with Pakistan to convince the Muslim voters to exercise their franchise in its favour.

But are the Muslims convinced? A majority of them feel that the olive branch extended to them by the BJP is illusory and timed well.

Some Muslim leaders feel that it is not possible for a party that has followed an "adverse" policy towards the minorities right from the beginning to change its mindset overnight. Cricket diplomacy with Pakistan is a non-issue for Indian Muslims as they love India as much as any non-Muslim, they feel. On this count, the BJP is, in fact, striking the wrong chord.

The former Minister, B.A. Mohideen, who recently joined the Congress, is of the opinion that the Muslims will support the BJP only when it will prove its concern for them.

Anwar Manippady, who was a staunch supporter of the Congress since the past 20 years, joined the BJP recently. He told The Hindu that 30 per cent of the Muslims held government jobs in 1947, which had decreased to eight per cent during the fifty years of Congress rule. Even the literacy rate among Muslims had come down from 21 per cent in 1947 to nine per cent, he said.

On the other hand, Farooq Ullal of the Janata Dal (Secular) feels that his party is the true secular political entity in the district. He notes that the Mangalore Lok Sabha constituency has nearly two lakh Muslim voters, and their decision is decisive for the victory of any candidate.

"But the Janata Dal (S) under the leadership of the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, is not aiming at Muslim votes but has treated Muslims as any other voters, and that has won the hearts of the Muslims in the district," he says.

However, election observers in the Mangalore Lok Sabha Constituency feel that the Muslim voting pattern is unlikely to change.

Though a faction of the Muslim community might vote in favour of the BJP in the Lok Sabha election, they are going to stay with the Congress when it comes to the Assembly seats in the district, they feel.

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