New Delhi: After having come to power in the state with over 300 non-Muslim legislators, BJP has inducted its first Muslim in UP cabinet - Mohsin Raza.
BJP and its allies had not fielded a single Muslim candidate while contesting the 403 assembly seats of UP.
Though the party came to power with a historic mandate, absence of Muslims in the cabinet had created an interesting precedent in the state, where Hindus were likely to be appointed for Haj and minority affairs portfolios.
But the party has brought in a suprising element to their power equation in UP, by inducting a Muslim cabinet member.
The only thing more intriguing than the party's decision is the profile of the candidate they've appointed.
A cricketer, socialite, winner of a beauty pageant and an actor, Raza is not a big name in politics, activism or social work but is a common face in the social circuit of Lucknow.
Raza, who is a Shia Muslim, is married to a Sunni Fozia Sarwat Fatima, who belongs to the prominent Muslim family and is related to the BJP leader and Manipur governor, Najma Heptullah.
Raza is a product of the MRF Pace Foundation at Chennai and an ex-Ranji Trophy player. He not only played cricket but also participated in pageants and tried luck in entertainment industry. He was crowned 'Prince Lucknow' in the year 1995, and also acted in the famous Doordarshan serial “Neem Ka Ped”. Some years ago he tried his luck in the Hindi film industry.
He belongs to the family of zamindars in Unnao’s Safipur that had its loyalties with the Congress party. In fact in 1999 Raza became the chairman of Congress’ sports cell. But the association with Congress did not last long due to internal issues.
He was appointed as the chairman and when he was given the position of a convener he left Congress’ cell. Raza was suspicious of 'games' being played against him.
“He left the Cell as he thought things are not going his way. He was not much interested in politics either but people put pressure on him to take it up. My brother’s appeal was unbeatable on the pitch – the crowd would come to see him, but now with this new responsibility he will do well here too,” his brother, Arshi Raza, said.
People still remember him from his cricketing days. When people started expecting him to enter politics – wondering his charm would translate in good leadership in politics – he made his wife stand for local polls in Unnao. She stood as an independent candidate in Safipur and lost by 125 votes.
To set an independent foothold for himself, in 2010 Raza floated an outfit called “Safipur Vikas Manch”.
Slowly he started taking up politics and joined BJP before the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. He became the spokesperson for BJP last year. Raza enjoys good rapport with Rajnath Singh and his son Pankaj Singh.
(Mohsin Raza with Rajnath Singh)
Athar Hussain, a Muslim intellectual in Lucknow who is the director of Center for Objective Research and Development, said that by appointing Yogi Adityanath the party is respecting the sentiment of the mandate – “core Hindutva”.
On BJP inducting a cricketer in its cabinet he said, “Raza is not from a big political background or involved in activism but he joined BJP before 2014. He is a common face in social circle of Lucknow.”
He added, “It seems Muslims have become a commodity, you love them or hate them, either way they are in discussion. They constitute 20 % of the population and their issues are as similar as other. They too think of education, health and employment. But in past years politics made them of a product.”
He said that Muslims have become a “vote bank or reverse vote bank of the neo-BJP.”