VIJAYAWADA/NEW DELHI: The centre is launching what it calls “progress panchayats” from Thursday in Muslim-dominated parts of the country, in a special outreach after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech on the weekend that the community must be empowered, not treated only as “items of the vote market”.
On Saturday, while addressing a BJP meet in Kerala’s Kozhikode, PM Modi had quoted party ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay to say, “Don’t reward nor rebuke Muslims. Empower them. They are not items of the vote market nor are they substance of hate. Treat them as your own.” “The government does not want to call them Muslim panchayats, since it’s a move aimed at resolving issues that hinder the community’s progress and keep it from being drawn into the main stream,” a top government official told NDTV.
The progress panchayats will be overseen by Muqtar Abbas Naqvi, union minister for Minority Affairs, who told NDTV on Wednesday, “This is unlike any scheme in the past. This is not for votes. We will reach out and try to deliver solutions like schools, nursing homes and hostels for girls.”
The first such panchayat will be held on Thursday in Mewat in BJP-ruled Haryana, where a controversy erupted over allegations that beef was used in biryani prepared at eateries ahead of Eid earlier this month. The move comes as the BJP prepares to contest key assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, where 18 percent of the voters are Muslims.
The next two progress panchayats will be held in Rajasthan and Maharashtra, both BJP-ruled states.