Lucknow: When it forms the government in Uttar Pradesh after the landslide electoral win the Bharatiya Janata Party will be faced with a unique question at least on one front - who will be the minister in charge of Minority Welfare and Haj.
The department directly deals with around 20 percent population in a state which has the largest number of Muslims in the country. The party which talks about 'sabka saath sabka vikas' has not a single Muslim member in the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council. In the just-concluded Assembly Elections in which the BJP bagged 324 seats along with allies, out of 403 seats, it had not given tickets to any Muslims.
Out of 24-odd Muslim MLAs who have won, 17 are from the Samajwadi party, five are from the BSP, and two from the Congress.
During the course of its electoral campaign, and subsequent to its landslide victory, the tone of the BJP leaders have been softer and more accomodative of the minorities. Leaders like union ministers Kalraj Mishra and Uma Bharti in their interviews to News18 earlier had emphasised the need for giving greater representation to Muslims. Kalraj even promised that "in the days to come, BJP will try and bring Muslims to Parliament and state assemblies through direct election."
So, how will the BJP deal with this situation? Will it search for a Muslim face within the party? Afterall, in the past there were leaders like Aizaz Rizvi and her daughter Seema Rizvi who were the party's voice in the upper house and a minority face in the state cabinet. Even at present, BJP has leaders like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Najma Heptullah who remain a minority face, though symbolic. Naqvi presently heads the department of Minority welfare and before him it was Najma Heptullah who bore this responsibility.
BJP's state general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak feels there is no reason to be concerned. "Why can't a person from a majority community head the department? After all a government is for all the people. It doesn't matter who heads a particular department, what's more crucial is how the department is handled," Pathak says.
Echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's words at the post-poll celebratory meet in Delhi on Sunday, he says: "BJP government will work on Samta and Samanta, will work towards realising a vision for New India. The party is driven by the philosphy of Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas."
But getting a non-Muslim to head the department of Minority Affairs and Haj is not as easy as the BJP leaders make it out to be. The minister of the department is also the head of the Haj committee. Will BJP dare keep a Hindu in that seat?
Prominent Islamic cleric and member of the All India Personal law board, Khalid Rashid Firangi Mehali, sounds concerned. He says,"The very spirit of Minority Welfare Department will be curtailed if a non-minority is appointed as head of the department. There are several issues which a person from the community can understand better."
Brijesh Shukla, a senior journalist and someone who had covered BJP for long, recalls that even the BJP government of Kalyan Singh which came to power through the mandir movement had Aizaz Rizvi as a Muslim face. Aizaz headed the department of Minority welfare. Later on his daughter Seema Rizvi remained BJP's minority face for long, serving subsequent BJP governments in the state.
"Earlier it was the era of Atal-ji. He always kept some options available. It was the reason why a section of Shia community in Lucknow remained warm towards the party. Today it's BJP of Amit Shah and Modi era, where such nitty grittys are probably ignored," Shukla says.