Stressing that the Apna Dal-S stands for social justice, Union minister Anupriya Patel on Monday dissociated her party from ”Hindutva and all those issues” and said it is ideologically different from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Muslim candidates are not untouchable for her party, the Apna Dal-S chief told PTI three days ahead of the first round of the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh elections beginning on February 10.
"Yes, we are ideologically different from the BJP. People are trying to ask me questions on Hindutva and all those issues, I dissociate myself from all those issues and my party doesn't do religious politics. We stand for social justice. That's our ideology,” Patel told PTI.
”We have always worked for the marginalised sections of society, whether on the streets or in Parliament. And this is our philosophy and our founding principles and we only stick to it," she added.
The Apna Dal, which has been BJP's ally in the last three elections in Uttar Pradesh -- the 2014 and 2019 general elections and the 2017 assembly polls -- has announced its first Muslim candidate this time.
Haider Ali, grandson of Congress veteran Begum Noor Bano, was the first candidate announced by the Apna Dal-S. He is contesting against senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan's son Abdullah Azam Khan from Suar.
"I don't know why everybody is looking at a candidate from the perspective of religion. He is a promising youth who is well educated," Patel said.
Her party doesn't look at candidates from the prism of religion, she added in response to a question on there not being a single Muslim candidate from the National Democratic Alliance the last time. Ali is the first Muslim candidate for the Apna Dal and also for the NDA.
"The first MLA from my party when the founder of my party Sonelal Patel was alive was a Muslim who won the Pratapgarh Sadar constituency and his name was Haji Munnah. Many Muslims have been state presidents of the Apna Dal. So for my party Muslims are not untouchables and I don't look at candidates in light of their religion," Patel.
Patel, who is a minister in the commerce and industry ministry, said the Apna Dal-S had always been at the forefront on raising issues related to the ideology of social justice. It had raised also raised the matter of other backward classes reservations in NEET examinations with the BJP's top leadership.
She said the mood in Uttar Pradesh is in favour of the NDA and the BJP-led alliance will again form the government in the state.
"The mood is very clear. We will be retaining the government in Uttar Pradesh. People have seen good governance and inclusive growth in Uttar Pradesh. I think we have been able to fulfill expectations of people in the state to a great extent.
”People have witnessed good law and order and inclusive growth in the state and will support us," Patel said.
On the question of several OBC leaders leaving the BJP ahead of the assembly polls, Patel said this is a common trend before elections.
”Leaders irrespective of caste leave before elections and this crossover of politicians to other parties before elections is a common trend and a common feature,” she said.
The Apna Dal has so far announced 13 candidates and is expected to announce candidates for five more seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly. In the last assembly polls, the party contested on 11 seats and won nine. The Apna Dal-S has two MPs in the Lok Sabha.