The BJP's minority cell has launched a drive to connect with Muslims in Gujarat, which goes to polls later this year, by making at least 100 "Alpsankhyak Mitra" in assembly segments having a sizeable population of the community, party leader Jamal Siddiqui said on Sunday.
People belonging to minority communities, mainly Muslims, will also be included in the BJP's booth committees in such assembly segments, the party's minority cell chief said.
"The BJP's minority cell has started a drive to connect at least 100 Muslims hailing from non-political background with the party as its sympathisers. They could be spiritual leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs and could also be those working in government," Siddiqui said.
Each such "Alpsankhyak Mitra (friend from the minority community)" of the party would be given the responsibility to ensure 50 minority votes for the BJP from their surroundings, he said.
He further said members of the minority cell will be included in the BJP's booth committees in 109 assembly segments that have substantial Muslim population -- from 25,000 to one lakh votes.
The BJP's outreach comes at a time its state government in Gujarat is under attack for releasing 11 men convicted for raping a Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, and killing her family members during the 2002 communal riots.
Asked about this, Siddiqui defended his party's government saying it had formed a committee "following the instructions of the High Court and that committee decided to release the convicts."
"It was only the BJP government which punished them and they have been released after serving a certain punishment...after all, mercy is part of Indian culture," Siddqui said.
When asked about 2002 riots, Siddiqui said it was an unfortunate incident and people have no move forward.
"Riots happened in 2002, it was unfortunate. It is past now, people have moved on. People have seen that Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn't differentiate on basis of caste and religion. People irrespective of their faith have benefited from welfare schemes of his government," he said.
As per the 2011 census, Muslims are the biggest minority in Gujarat, constituting 9.65 per cent of the population. But it could send only three MLAs, all belonging to the Congress, to the assembly in the 2017 elections.
The Congress had fielded five candidates, while the BJP didn't give ticket to any Muslim candidate in the last assembly election.
(With PTI inputs)