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28 Jun 2017

BJP balancing act on minority panel

J.P. YADAV, TT, New Delhi, June 27:  The BJP today sought to distance itself, but not reject, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's demand to scrap the minority commission and the minority affairs ministry, saying the party was bound by the 2014 manifesto that doesn't mention the issue.
"The BJP strictly adheres to the principle of sabka saath, sabka vikas (support of all, development for all) and the government is committed to the manifesto," BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said, asked about the VHP's call.
Internally, however, there is an understanding that the VHP's apparently "extremist demand" was directed at testing public mood and could well drive the BJP's narrative in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
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Some party leaders recalled how the VHP had launched a movement in the 1980s for a Ram temple on the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya and the BJP later adopted it, realising it would yield political gains. The BJP national executive meeting at Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, in 1989 passed a resolution to demand the temple's construction. Before that, the temple issue didn't figure on the BJP agenda.
Today, Rao contended that the "concept of minorities is not equal to Muslims" and accused BJP rivals of using the issue for political gains, a stance that seemed to suggest that despite distancing itself from the VHP's demand to scrap the panel and the ministry, the party was not rejecting the idea.
"The concept of minorities has been misinterpreted by previous governments. Minority is not equal to Muslims. It is a false narrative orchestrated by the Congress, communists and their ilk for political gains," Rao said.
He pointed out that in some states like Meghalaya, even the Hindus were in a minority. "Our government follows the true definition for minorities that is not a political tool or agenda. It is derived from a Supreme Court verdict," Rao said, citing a 2002 judgment that minority status should be determined in relation to the population of the state and not the entire country.
The VHP's latest demand, made at a weekend meeting of its central governing council in Gujarat, came against the backdrop of rising attacks and lynching of Muslims. A resolution passed at the two-day meet said the very idea of such a commission and ministry gives rise to a "separatist mindset". The resolution said that since all citizens were equal, there should be no such separate entities for minorities and that the human rights commission was enough to address the grievances of all.
Party insiders said the communal undercurrents stoked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's " smashan and kabristan (crematorium and burial ground)" remark during the Uttar Pradesh campaign this February had helped the party register an unprecedented victory and the charged atmosphere could earn similar dividends in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Modi had said that if a kabristan was built in a village, a smashan should be constructed too.

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