NEW DELHI: In a choice that is also a political statement by the Centre, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath will preside over a meeting of ministers for minority affairs of north Indian states to discuss development plans for minority communities in Lucknow on January 18.
Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will attend the meeting to which minority affairs ministers from UP, Punjab, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh have also been invited.
“We shall discuss how minority communities can be empowered without appeasement,” Naqvi said in what seems to be a bid to signal a departure from traditional sops such as Haj subsidies that have been wound up and instead turn the focus on facilities such as health, education and banking.
The decision to ask Yogi to preside over the discussions is intended to challenge the opposition charge that he is a saffron exclusivist and counter the perception of his being essentially a street fighter. Given that UP has a large minority population, the CM has the opportunity to display his governance credentials and use his understanding of deprivation in east UP where he has contested elections to frame effective policies.
The decision to hold the meet in Lucknow is also seen as another bid by the saffron party to stress that it is not opposed to the welfare of the minority communities but will not share the “discriminatory” approach of other parties as seen in BJP’s attacks on the previous SP government over providing funds for maintenance of burial grounds that led to allegations of encroachment and rise in communal tensions.
Naqvi said appeasement politics such as protecting criminal elements and provocative acts like encouraging land grabs have taken a toll on the real empowerment of minorities, keeping them out of the national mainstream.
After the insistent bid to get the triple talaq bill passed in Parliament, this move is less contentious apart from the political symbolism as the most populous state has been the epicentre of minority politics with regional parties like SP and BSP banking heavily on the community.
The Lucknow meet is the second of its kind as Chennai has hosted one. Kolkata and Mumbai will be the next destinations, the minister said. The meeting is about how states can capitalise on the centrally-funded minority welfare schemes. “Agenda of the meeting is development with dignity,” said the minister.