Farmer leader Pasha Patel is one of the Muslim faces of the BJP in Maharashtra Latur-based Patel, a former leader of Shetkari Sanghatana, has headed the state unit of the liberal farmers organisation. After the Justice Rajinder Sachhar Committee report pointed to the extent of backwardness in the Muslim community, Patel, a fiery orator, had carried out a state-wide drive highlighting these details. Patel spoke to dna’s Dhaval Kulkarni regarding the impact of Narendra Modi’s nomination as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate on Muslim voters and the condition of Muslims in Maharashtra. Excerpts:
Congress leaders claim that Modi’s projection by the BJP will help polarise minority votes against the BJP. What is your take?
If this is the case, then why were just eight Congress MLAs elected in Delhi? Delhi has a sizeable Muslim population. Rajasthan has a substantial Muslim population too. Then, why did the Congress lose there? If the Muslims had voted en bloc for the Congress, it would have remained undefeated. The Muslims want to teach Congress a lesson, it feels that everything else can be dealt with later.
You claim that the Muslims are angry at the Congress.
The maximum damage to the Muslims of India has been caused by the Congress. During my campaign regarding the Sachhar report, I had coined a slogan: “Azadi ke saath saal, Musalman behal, naukri me do takka, pachpann takka hamal, wa re Congress tera kamal.” (Sixty years of independence, Muslims left high and dry, just 2% hold jobs, 55% are labourers, All because of you, Congress). This one slogan encapsulates everything. The Muslims have been damaged immensely by the Congress. The Dalits comprise around 9% of the population of India, while Muslims are 17%. However, Dalits have a much healthy representation than Muslims in sectors like jobs in the government and railways, IPS, IAS and even the judiciary.
The state government appointed Mehmood-ur-Rehman committee has suggested reservations for Muslims. This idea has been opposed by some activists from within the community. What is your take?
The Mehmood-ur-Rehman Committee was appointed after the Sachhar report was released. It was meant to indicate the condition of Muslims in Maharashtra. This committee took years to submit its report. Hence, the questions is, can the recommendations be implemented?
All communities are seeking reservations. If all communities demand reservations, what can happen? Who should get reservation? Chhatrapati Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (of Kolhapur who first introduced reservations in 1902) said weak horses need nourishment. All communities are in a bad shape. The question is whether these recommendations will be implemented.
What is the condition of Muslims in Maharashtra?
Around 72% of Muslims in Maharashtra are OBCs. They are more Dalit (broken) than Dalit themselves. This sums up their state.
Maharashtra has seen agitations by farmers seeking remunerative prices for their produce, farmer leaders feel that agrarian distress may be more acute this year.
The farmers are facing severe problems this year. I had organised a march of farmers from Lodga in Latur district to Aurangabad. This year may see more farmer suicides than last year. The monsoon saw rainfall which was around 1.5 times of the average, which led to a lower soyabean and cotton yield but the prices too have been pegged low. Just one district – Wardha has seen 19 farmers end their lives in just two months.