By Mohammed Shafeeq
Narendra Modi is a reassuring figure for Indian Muslims but not the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yet, says Zafar Sareshwala, the most high-profile Muslim aide of the prime minister.
The Gujarati businessman, who took over as the new chancellor of Moulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), believes Muslims are closer to Modi than to the BJP.
“Muslims will judge Modi by not what he says but by what he does or he is doing or what he plans to do,” Sareshwala told IANS here Thursday.
A day after taking charge as the chancellor of the central university without the media glare and addressing the faculty in a closed-door meeting, Sareshwala had a free exchange of views with a group of eminent Muslims here.
Sareshwala told IANS that building bridges is important for both the community and the BJP-led government. “Modi is a reassuring figure for Muslims not the BJP yet. But then you can’t have a democracy where 15 percent (people) are alienated from you,” said the CEO and MD of Parsoli Corporation Ltd.
Sareshwala believes that the building of bridges will happen slowly as it happened in Gujarat by Modi’s work. “Slowly things are visible. When proceeds of growth reach (Muslims), this will automatically happen.”
“Modi has been saying that Musalman ko padhao aur badhao (educate Muslims and promote them). He says Muslims have many problems and if we control one, everything will fall in place,” said the 52-year-old industrialist.
Stating that he has been observing things closely, he claimed the government has already started doing something for educational development of Muslims. He feels he was appointed chancellor of MANUU to do something for the community in education.
“In fact I have been sent here for that the reason. It’s (chancellor of MAANU) a big headache. I am a businessman and time is a big issue. But I have to give it because I have been given the responsibility,” he said.
He quoted Modi as saying that Muslims will love him by his work. “Modi also said he wants to see Quran in one hand and the computer in the other hand of Muslims,” said Sareshwala while stressing the need for the community to focus both on religious and modern education.
Explaining on why Modi is reassuring, Sareshwala said the kind of election results seen in 2014 general elections and also in the subsequent assembly elections in Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir prove that Muslims in whatever little percentage voted for the BJP.
“Had Modi not been PM candidate of BJP, Muslims would not have voted. This is a man whose name would create a fatwa against him. You have to see in that perspective.”
“In Kashmir Valley, they did not get a single seat but the fact remains that Mr Modi addressed a public meeting in Sringar when no Indian prime minister dared. More than 40,000 Kashmiri youth heard him. The fear of Modi is totally gone now,” he contended.
Asked about the controversial statements being made by a section of BJP leaders and other right-wing Hindu groups on religions conversions, Sareshwala is confident that these voices will become irrelevant with development.
“I am not much concerned about fringes who are talking about so many things. They are only vocal but there is a silent majority. These are only noise like (those made by empty) vessels. We have seen and heard much dangerous voices in Gujarat. They were much more ferocious. These are only voices but we have seen ferocity in flesh and blood. I don’t want to name them but they were very powerful.
“What did Modi do. Have you ever heard Modi said a word about those people. No. He did something different. He developed Gujarat as a model state. You can’t deny the fact that the growth of Muslims in Gujarat has been phenomenal. In fact the kind of growth which we have seen in Muslims post 2002 was never seen prior to that for 40 years. By doing that Muslims grew and Gujarat also grew. Automatically these voices became irrelevant.”
Defending Modi’s silence on the controversial statements being made on issues like ‘ghar wapsi’, Sareshwala said those making noises are attention seekers and they don’t deserve a response
“I don’t think Modi needs to address them. He needs to do what he is doing. He also needs to just see that the way growth in Gujarat was inclusive, the growth in India is also inclusive,” he added.