This Article is From Jun 26, 2013

Mission minority: Congress, BJP race for support

New Delhi: Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United or JD(U) parted ways with his 17-year-old ally, the BJP, because it says Narendra Modi, who is the party's poll campaign chief, is not acceptable to the minorities. As the 2014 polls close in, the Congress-led UPA government too is pushing its minority agenda. And so is the BJP, which is coming out with its own vision document for Muslims.

Minority Affairs Minister K Rehman Khan has drawn up a plan to fast-track the UPA's minority agenda. Mr Khan, however, told NDTV that the move has nothing to do with Mr Modi's elevation.

"It's not about Narendra Modi being made chairman of their campaign panel. UPA has always been for inclusive growth," he said.

As the race for minority support picks up, Mr Khan has formed joint committees with industry bodies like Confederation of Indian Industries and FICCI to impart skilled training for higher employability in the private sector.

The BJP, on the other hand, is keen to shed Mr Modi's anti-minority image. BJP Vice President and the party's Muslim face Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi says they are working in a new scheme for Muslims.

"We stand for empowerment not for appeasement," says Mr Naqvi.

He will be heading a committee that is preparing a vision document. Mr Naqvi says BJP needs to reach out to the minorities but maintains it's not an attempt to change perceptions about Mr Modi.

"Even in Gujarat, about 250 representatives from minority communities have been elected," says Mr Naqvi.

Both Congress and the BJP say they stand for empowerment and want minorities to take part in the country's development process. But the question is - Do they remember the minorities just before elections?

Muslims form about 18.7 per cent of India's population as per 2011 census.

The government is only now creating a data bank. Public sector enterprises have been asked to have a member from the minority community.

UPA has also changed the criteria to build hospitals, schools and technical training institutes in minority-dominated areas.  Instead of 195 districts, these development schemes will now be monitored in 719 minority-dominated blocks. Last year, Rs 800 crore of the minority development fund was not be used by states.