Vijayawada/New Delhi: The centre is launching what it calls "progress panchayats" from tomorrow in Muslim-dominated parts of the country, in a special outreach after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech on the weekend that the community must be empowered, not treated only as "items of the vote market".
- Centre to launch "progress panchayats" in Muslim-dominated parts of India
- It is seen as ruling BJP's most significant attempt at political makeover
- "Don't rebuke Muslims," PM said on Saturday during Kerala BJP meet rally
It is seen as the ruling BJP's most significant attempt at a political makeover. The party has over the years drawn negligible support from the minority community and has made no move to reach out to it either.
On Saturday, while addressing a BJP meet in Kerala's Kozhikode, PM Modi had quoted party idealogue Deen Dayal Upadhyay to say, "Don't reward nor rebuke Muslims. Empower them. They are not items of the vote market nor are they substance of hate. Treat them as your own."
That laid the foundation for a new mantra - if Muslims keep away from the government and the BJP, they will go to the Muslims.
"The government does not want to call them Muslim panchayats, since it's a move aimed at resolving issues that hinder the community's progress and keep it from being drawn into the main stream," a top government official said.
The progress panchayats will be overseen by Muqtar Abbas Naqvi, union minister for Minority Affairs, who told NDTV today, "This is unlike any scheme in the past. This is not for votes. We will reach out and try to deliver solutions like schools, nursing homes and hostels for girls right at the spot."
The first such panchayat will be held on Thursday in Mewat in BJP-ruled Haryana, where a controversy erupted over allegations that beef was used in biryani prepared at eateries ahead of Eid earlier this month.
The move comes as the BJP prepares to contest key assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, where 18 per cent of the voters are Muslims. The party feels that such initiatives will send an important message, if not actually win it some Muslim votes, which the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Congress traditionally draw.
The next two progress panchayats will be held in Rajasthan and Maharashtra, both BJP ruled states.