The Republican Party of India seems set to project its major ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as a secular outfit by hosting an iftar party today. RPI president Ramdas Athawale has invited BJP ministers from the Centre and state to attend the party, which will be held at the Haj House.
Athawale (top right) has also invited Shiv Sena leaders for the event, which will be held at the Haj House today. File pics
Sources close to the RPI chief said the move was a calculated one because BJP ministers, including state Minority Welfare minister Eknath Khadse, have not yet finalised plans to hold an iftar party, which used to be routine affairs during the Congress-NCP regime.
The BJP-Sena government does not have any Muslim representation in the Cabinet and Athawale has invited the Shiv Sena leaders as well. “We don’t know yet whether BJP ministers will come forward to organise an iftar party on their own. Khadse may be compelled to hold the event because he is minority welfare minister,” said a senior Muslim cleric, who has been invited by Athawale.
The cleric said it would be interesting to see how many BJP ministers show up for the event. “It would be even more exciting if the ministers show the courage to organise iftar events in their personal capacity,” he said, adding that the Congress and NCP’s iftar events had the CM in attendance.
Athawale’s invitees include Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Eknath Khadse, state Education Minister Vinod Tawde, state Housing minister Prakash Mehta and Sena leaders Mayor Snehal Ambekar and MP Rahul Shewale.
Iftar events help parties in networking with the Muslim community and its senior leaders. These events were organised routinely by ministers and parties in the month of Ramzan when the Congress-NCP government was in power. Several Congress and NCP leaders are expected to organise the dinners in the coming days.
The Friday iftar, if it is attended by BJP ministers, is expected to break the ice between them and Muslim leaders, who have raised concerns over the state government’s move to not treat madrassas as schools if they don’t teach subjects like science, social science and maths in their curriculum.
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said yesterday that the community would be hurt if the BJP government interfered in religious teaching. “I urge the BJP-Sena combine to desist from disturbing the peace that prevails,” Azmi said in a statement.
Education minister Vinod Tawde said that the state did not want to interfere in religious education, but wanted Muslim students to learn subjects that are important in making their careers.
“How is this (making certain subjects compulsory) anti-Muslim? We want to do this for their betterment. Under the RTE, children who aren’t taught under the National School Curriculum are considered out of schools,” he said in a statement yesterday.