Over 25,000 Muslims, including educators, entrepreneurs, and clerics, have joined the ranks of “Modi Mitrs” — friends of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — as part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ambitious outreach program.
Nafis Ansari, a school principal from Madhya Pradesh, stands as a prime example of this unusual alliance. Despite historical tensions between Modi and the Muslim community, these individuals actively promote the BJP at social gatherings, emphasizing the party’s welfare initiatives and India’s global ascent under Modi’s leadership.
BJP’s Bid for Muslim Votes
The BJP’s Muslim outreach, unprecedented on a national scale, seeks to win over the 200 million-strong Muslim demographic, despite the party’s past fraught relations with the community. The strategy involves focusing on 65 key parliamentary seats with a significant Muslim voter population, aiming to secure 16-17% of the Muslim vote in the upcoming elections.
The campaign employs economic messaging, targeting underprivileged Muslim voters, especially women, with promises of inclusive policies such as monthly handouts and housing subsidies. The BJP’s approach reflects a nuanced effort to bridge deep-rooted divides and dispel perceptions of religious discrimination.
Challenges and Criticisms
While the BJP’s efforts to court Muslim voters are a departure from past approaches, challenges and criticisms persist. Allegations of anti-Islamic sentiments within the BJP, historical tensions, and concerns over religious practices remain significant hurdles.
Some argue that the BJP’s campaign seeks to divide and rule, leveraging economic promises to garner support while downplaying broader issues of religious identity. As the political landscape evolves, the success of this unprecedented outreach hinges on overcoming deeply embedded suspicions and fostering genuine dialogue between the BJP and the Muslim electorate.