The Bharatiya Janata Party which will form the government in Karnataka on Friday may have been accused of not fielding a single Muslim candidate in the recently-concluded elections. However, the BJP's chief minister-designate, B S Yeddyurappa, had promised that he would have one Muslim in his government to keep apprehensions of the BJP being solely a Hindu party at bay.
Yeddyurappa is expected to induct Dr Mumtaz Ali Khan into his ministry on Friday. Following several rounds of meetings of the BJP's core committee, the party zeroed in on Dr Khan, who heads the party's minority wing in Karnataka. The BJP plans to elect him as a member of the Karnataka legislative council in order to facilitate his entry into the government.
Dr Khan, who obviously is elated, spoke to Special Correspondent Vicky Nanjappa about what he expects out of the first BJP government in South India and also on how the Muslims across the state are reacting to the new government.
Dr Khan, what will be your primary concern once you are sworn in as minister?
My only concern is society and I am working on various ways on improving it. This is my primary concern.
Are you confident that Yeddyurappa will be able to live up to the expectations of the people? He is being made out to be a hero in Karnataka and also the man who has ensured the BJP's victory in Karnataka almost single-handedly.
Yeddyurappa is a man with broad vision and an open heart. I have full confidence in him. His thoughts regarding social justice are clear and I am sure he will be able to reach out to the masses. Also, let us not forget that he is in favour of the minority community which acts as a balancing factor.
Are you trying to say that the Muslims in Karnataka need not worry about having a BJP government in the state?
Yes, there is no cause for concern. I know Yeddyurappa and he is in favour of the minorities in Karnataka. There is nothing to worry.
There is a feeling among Muslims that the BJP is a party for Hindus. How do you react to that?
This so-called Hindutva image that is being attached to the party is bogus and politically motivated. There is no truth in that at all. The party does a lot of work for the minorities and I can vouch for that. From what I see, the BJP is a party for one and all, be it the Muslims or the backwards classes.
Do you mean to say that the Hindutva image is not something that the BJP has brought upon itself?
Yes, that is true. It is the doing of parties such as the Congress and the JD-S who have been portraying the BJP as a communal party. The Muslims have realised what the BJP really is.
How can you justify that Muslims are in favour of the BJP in Karnataka?
Just look at the voting pattern. Almost 25 per cent of the Muslims in Karnataka have voted for the BJP. In Shikaripura, where Yeddyurappa contested from, at least 50 per cent of the Muslims have voted for him. This is an indication that the BJP is not anti-Muslim. The claims by other parties that the BJP is anti-Muslim are nothing but vote bank politics. They stand exposed at the moment and even the Muslim voters know that they were being used.
There are still a considerable number of Muslims who continue to feel uncomfortable with the BJP. What will you do about it?
I do agree that the feeling is still there among some Muslims. These persons have been misguided and such feelings need to go. I am already on the job. It is my duty to convince the Muslims across the state as to what the BJP really stands for. What is important for Muslims is that they follow the parameters or Islam and what Prophet Mohammed had to preach. The BJP is not against this and I will tell the people of the state that. It is the Congress and the JD-S which has promoted hatred and in the bargain the Muslims were hoodwinked.
Have the Muslims forgotten the post-Godhra violence, for which the BJP has been blamed all along?
We have faced worse situations. Godhra has to be forgotten and we need to move on. It is time for a new beginning. We have a bright future and we need to approach it with a positive attitude.
So are you confident that the Muslims will have no problems under the BJP regime in Karnataka?
Yes, I am absolutely sure about that. I know for a fact that the BJP will concentrate on good governance and this anti-Muslim feeling will vanish in no time.
Lastly, there is a major issue in Karnataka regarding the Datta Peeta-Baba Budangiri shrine in Chikmagalur. Both Hindus and Muslims claim that the shrine belongs to them. What do you think should be done here?
It is unfortunate that there is a dispute over here. I feel that harmony should be maintained and the problem resorted at the earliest. The need of the hour is to bring both the communities together and discuss the issue across the table. I am sure that this issue would be resolved if both communities resolve it with an open mind.