It’s a matter of great pride for the people of Bihar that Jagat Prakash Nadda, a former resident of Patna has taken over the reins of the leadership of the national ruling (political) party, the BJP. An alumnus of Patna University, he actively participated in the 1974 Bihar movement. It’s there, he first honed in on his leadership abilities.
Jagat Prakash assumes leadership of the largest political party of the democratic world at a time when his party is faced with both the short and long-term challenges. The Delhi or Bihar provincial elections are the immediate projects, but establishing the legitimacy of the BJP as a genuine national party would be a serious undertaking.
For both, winning over the hearts and minds of the Muslims will be crucially important. The patriotic and well-meaning Muslims of India will have to be marshalled along by the side of the party and its leadership. Scholarly senior statesmen like Arif M. Khan and M.J. Akbar must be presented at the forefront.
They will ask the protesting Muslims and skeptic women at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi and other places whether they would like their children to be on the footsteps of Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, President Zakir Hussain or President Abul Kalam. Or, whether they would like their sons and daughters to be on the models of Jinnah, Shahabuddin, Azam Khan or Sharjeel Islam
Jagat Prakash’s predecessor, Amit Shah, has demonstrated that the BJP could sail through the 2014 and 2019 general elections without the patronage and support of the Muslims. Rightly or wrongly, his aggressive rhetoric has also caused concerns.
Furthermore, enactment of laws against Triple Talaq, the legislation resulting in the changed status of Kashmir and the Supreme Court verdict on the Babri Masjid in favor of the Hindu worshippers have piled up to offer the forces led by the Congress party a pretext to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act. Many pro-Gandhi scholars and activists like Rajmohan Gandhi have also jumped on the band-wagon of opposing the CAA.
Given the fact that there’s nothing called “Hindu Unity”, the BJP can hardly be assured of a continuing winning streak if the country stands polarized or divided along caste lines. The middle and the lower caste support to the BJP can easily be stripped away. The party has recently lost a series of provincial elections, Jharkhand being the latest. The country has also witnessed the hypocrisy of the Hindus (the Shiv Sena and the BJP) coming together in Maharashtra and then falling apart. It’s only confirms how fragile the so-called Hindu unity could be once the dynastic or power considerations set in.
An apparent stiff stand on the part of the BJP -- under the Modi-Shah dispensation -- was that the Muslims hadn’t been favorably disposed towards the party. Then, why to “appease” them by offering party tickets or wasting resources on them? A Hindu BJP legislator can well be a representative of all. This is, after all, a Hindu-first party.
Jagat Prakash will have to get above this partisan approach and consideration. As a capable organizer, he will have to bring thousands of young Muslim boys and girls into the youth wings of his party, impart them a sound education in history and politics of the country and help them become self-dependent by giving them vocational training -- something on the pattern of National Service Corps the U.S. President John Kennedy had initiated in the 60’s.
The young Muslim minds have to be protected from becoming a prey to the anti-Hindu, pro-Jihadist and separatist ideologies. Sharjeel Islam is a burning example. As a statesman said, “Mind is a terrible thing to waste,” young minds of all communities will have to be kept engaged to achieve a greater goal. Muslims from the poor social strata are always more vulnerable.
If the Indian Muslims notice the ruling political establishment is taking steps towards the betterment of their children’s future, their complaints against their political representation could be diluted. Conversely, if they don’t see their share in the political process, and at the same time they find their community struggle in illiteracy, poverty and unemployment, they would become a fertile recruiting ground for the Islamist extremists. According to one study by a French sociologist, a sizable number of Islamic terrorists around the world had at one time attended a denominational school (the Madarsa).
The positive signs are that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about winning over the confidence of everyone (sabka vishwas), including that of the Muslims; he addresses all the Muslim women as daughters and sisters. The RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has also publicly given a call for Hindu-Muslim unity.
Above all, the young Muslims of India, exposed to the digitally connected globalized world understand that the Hindustani Muslims are by far better off compared to Muslims of any other part of the Islamic world. They watch what is happening in the Middle East.
However, the BJP can’t ignore the fact that many Muslim youths in India have currently been bought into the propaganda that under the Hindu Rashtra agenda, the Muslims would either be exterminated or rendered a second-class citizen. The BJP will have to erase this impression and win over their support as well.
Schooled in the Total Revolution movement led by Jay Prakash Narayan, Jagat Prakash will understand the importance of this historic time in his life and try to rope the Muslim youth in. A partyless democracy JP advocated doesn’t seem to be possible; however, a national party free of caste or communal prejudices, criminal elements, foul slogans, corruption and nepotism has to be a necessity.
A firm rejection of the negative elements will gravitate in droves wiser and more dedicated workers to the party. That will eventually benefit the nation.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.