‘The message he wants to give is that being a Muslim doesn’t stop him from addressing Hindu community concerns’.
NEW DELHI: On Friday, the town of Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, witnessed the performance of a three-hour play that was based on the Sanskrit epic, Ramayan. The play, which was depicted through the perspective of Rama, was organised by senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a Shia Muslim, at the premise of a Shiv temple in a town that has more than 65% Muslim population.
The play, which was organized on the occasion of the Hindu religious event of Mahashivratri and the annal “kisan mela”, saw large number of people from across the state, including from the Muslim community, turning up to watch it in which Puneet Ishar of the Mahabharat TV serial fame and Vindu Dara Singh are playing key roles. Ishar, who played the role of Duryodhana in the Ramanand Sagar’s epic production of the 1990s, has directed the play along-with his son.
Naqvi’s decision comes amid the controversy that has started after the speeches made by political leaders regarding Ramcharitmanas, a 16th century poem written in Awadhi language by Tulsidas which has a huge following in Uttar Pradesh.
According to Naqvi, the idea behind organizing the play, titled, “Jai Shri Ram Ramayana” was to strengthen the social and communal harmony in the region which is famous for being the only place where the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi have been kept apart from Rajghat. The first Lok Sabha MP from Rampur was the notable freedom fighter Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. Few are aware that Rampur has never ever seen a communal riot, even post the Babri Masjid incident in 1992 when many other parts of the country witnessed such incidents.
The larger message that Naqvi wants to give through his recent decisions is that being a Muslim does not stop him from being concerned about the concerns of Hindu community.
As per BJP leaders, Naqvi, who had earlier organized a similar social event, “Khichdi Panchayat” during the recently held Rampur Assembly by-election which played a key role in the BJP winning from the seat for the first time ever, is likely to be asked by the party leadership to contest the 2024 general elections from Rampur Lok Sabha. The seat had sent Naqvi to the Lok Sabha in 1998 elections after which he was made the Information and Broadcasting minister by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
During the Khichdi panchayat, gatherings were done in villages to listen to the grievances of the voters during which Naqvi and BJP leaders sat with the voters over “Khichdi” and instead of giving political speeches, simply heard what they had to say. As a result, BJP for the first time was able to win from the seat that is considered as a stronghold of Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan. These social initiatives by Naqvi are being seen as his preparations for his possible Lok Sabha candidature and to ensure that the BJP candidates in the nearby seats get benefit from these acts.
In July 2022, Naqvi was dropped from the Modi cabinet after working as a minister for eight years. Following this, after vacating his official allotted residence within two days, Naqvi shifted to a private accommodation and now spends much of his time in Rampur where he writes letters, calls up ministers and bureaucrats with requests to solve the grievance of people who come to him.
According to one of Naqvi’s aides, people from across the district have been gathering at his home in Shankarpur village of Chamraon block since morning at Rampur seeking his intervention, with most of them going back satisfied after getting a patient hearing to their issues.