As Modi Shifts Focus to Sabka Vishwaas, Muslims Close to Him Say He Always Had Their Trust
With an aim to realise ‘Sabka Vishwaas’ (earning the trust of all), PM Modi has said he will reach out to the Muslim community, which has so far been intimidated and used as a vote bank.
PM Narendra Modi (Image: Twitter)
Want to know the level of trust India places in Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Just ask Qamar, Mohsin, Yusuf and Naseeb.
Modi, who has returned to power with a thumping victory, has made his government’s agenda clear right since the beginning — after ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, the challenge now is ‘Sabka Vishwaas’ (earning the trust of all). With an aim to realise this goal, Modi has said he will reach out to the Muslim community, which has so far been intimidated and used as a vote bank.
While his critics may question the move, there are many within the community who have faith in the Prime Minister’s promise. Far removed from politics, these are people who have had a long association with Modi and know a side to him that many would not be privy to.
The story of Modi’s association with the Muslim community dates back to July 1995 when a farewell was being organised for outgoing Gujarat governor Dr Sarup Singh. It was Singh who had administered the oath to ministers of the first majority government in the state and Modi, whose strategy had been instrumental in the BJP’s victory, was part of the celebrations too.
As he was leaving, Singh beckoned Modi and asked him to meet a woman named Qamar and her husband Mohsin. Singh, an English professor and former vice-chancellor of the Delhi University, was fond of Urdu ‘shayari’ and given his love for the language, introduced Qamar as his daughter and asked Modi to take care of the couple.
Singh soon left, handing over the charge to his successor Naresh Chandra, but Modi never forgot the promise he made that day.
In the days to follow, Gujarat saw much political churning as Shankersinh Vaghela rebelled against then chief minister Keshubhai Patel along with several MLAs but blamed Modi for the chaos. Anguished by the allegations, Modi quit the party post on September 28, 1995, and headed to Delhi as secretary of the BJP’s central unit.
It was during this time that Qamar and her husband visited Delhi. They were familiar with BJP’s then MP Dileep Sanghani at whose residence Modi was also putting up and the chance encounter renewed Modi’s association with the couple.
What is interesting to note is that while Mohsin lived in Ahmedabad, Qamar was born in Karachi and moved to India after her marriage in 1981. Mohsin was a painter and was visiting Delhi to set up his exhibition. Modi not only helped him find a chief guest for the exhibition’s inauguration but also helped with the other preparations. These included a meeting with IK Gujral and one with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when Mohsin expressed his desire to present a painting on the Pokhran nuclear blasts.
In a sign that the once-chance encounter had transformed into a lifelong bond, Qamar soon started tying a ‘rakhi’ to Modi. The relationship that started almost two decades ago saw Modi’s move from the party to the government, a chief ministership of 13 years in Gujarat and then five years as the country’s prime minister, but the tradition of tying a ‘rakhi’ never ceased.
This period also saw the world label Modi a villain for the 2002 Gujarat riots and blame him for communal polarisation in the state. However, Qamar stood by him through all the ups and downs, unaffected by the allegations. Modi — often referred to as ruler of Hindu hearts — also never distanced himself from his Pakistan-born sister. Now that he has taken over the reins of the country once again, Qamar has decided to visit Delhi to meet her brother.
It is with the same intention that on May 26, Yusuf Khan travelled from Vadnagar to Ahmedabad’s Khanpur, which houses the BJP’s headquarters where Modi proved his mettle eight years ago.
Very few people know that the lane in Mehsana’s Vadnagar where Modi was born has a significant Muslim population. From within these families comes Yusuf Khan, who travelled the distance to meet his school senior and now the country’s prime minister.
An enthusiastic Khan reveals how despite occupying the country’s highest post, Modi has not forgotten the Muslim families of his hometown. Khan said when his son was getting married, Modi sent him a congratulatory message. He also recalled how he gathered at Mehsana railway station along with the others to welcome Modi when he returned from Srinagar in 1992 after completing his then party chief Murli Manohar Joshi’s ‘Ekta Yatra’.
Khan is not alone in his affection and adoration for Modi. Among the many supporters of Modi from the Muslim community in Vadnagar is Jasood Khan Pathan, Modi’s then classmate who was often invited to the chief minister’s residence in Gandhinagar when Modi was CM.
Episodes of Modi’s bonhomie with the community don’t end here. Once, Modi was attending a public gathering in Mehsana’s Gojariya village during his days of chief ministership. In the midst of his speech, he noticed a constable on duty and called him on stage. A perplexed crowd looked on as Modi enquired about constable Naseeb Khan’s well-being and it was revealed that the powerful chief minister was once a classmate of the police official and had thus not only acknowledged his presence but also accepted it in front of the public.
These instances from Gujarat aside, when Modi became the prime minister in 2014, several people were apprehensive of the fate of Muslim officers who held important positions during the tenure of the previous UPA government and were considered close to Congress leaders.
Among these names was that of Asif Ibrahim, the then director of the Intelligence Bureau, who superseded several senior officials to occupy the chair under the then government led by Manmohan Singh. Ibrahim was once the personal secretary of Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia when he was a Union minister. However, not only did Ibrahim retain his position but post retirement, he was appointed special envoy for Arab nations.
Same was the case with Syed Akbaruddin, former spokesperson of the external affairs ministry and now India’s permanent representative at the United Nations.
A spokesperson is the face of the ministry who presents to the world the government’s views on crucial foreign policies. Till when Akbaruddin would continue in this position was a question on everyone’s minds when the BJP stormed to power in 2014, under the leadership of Modi.
However, it would soon be revealed that the fear was misplaced. Not only did Modi retain Akbaruddin but he also accompanied the prime minister on official trips around the world. Akbaruddin was given the responsibility to coordinate a summit to strengthen India’s relations with African nations before being appointed India’s permanent representative at the United Nations, a post he holds even today.
From Vadnagar to Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad to Delhi, there are several instances to show that contrary to popular belief, Modi’s relationship with Muslim families and officials has always been harmonious.
Within Muslims, the most educated Dawoodi Bohra community invites Modi for every major programme and he makes it a point to be a part of their events. This practice did not change in 2002 or when he became the prime minister.
If anything has changed, it is Modi’s open declaration after the 2019 elections that his critics could continue deriding him but after ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, he would devote the next five years working towards winning ‘Sabka Vishwaas’.
People like Qamar, Mohsin, Yusuf, Ibrahim and Akbar bear testimony to the fact that the slogan may have been coined now, but Modi had already won their trust. They agree that Modi never maintained distance from them because they were Muslim but instead welcomed them with open arms.
Most of these relationships belong to a time and era when there was no political compulsion or advantage behind maintaining them. In such a scenario, now that Modi has coined a new slogan, these faces are available as witnesses of his outreach. After evidence, it is now time to prove his word and Modi is prepared for that too. Parliament’s central hall stands testimony to it and so do about half a dozen Muslim-majority countries which have conferred the highest civilian honour on the prime minister.
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