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A Muslim or Jain, who will head Maharashtra Minority Ministry - BJP debates
Wednesday October 29, 2014 11:20 PM, Staff Reporter

Amid hectic lobbying by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators over getting plum cabinet portfolios in Maharashtra ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of Chief Minister designate Devendra Fadnavis October 31, a debate rages in the party whether to include a Muslim minister in the cabinet or choose a Jain to head the Minority Affairs Ministry.

Names taking round in the political circle is of Syed Pasha Patel, who might be inducted into the cabinet of Devendra Fadnavis as Minister of Minority Affairs and Awkaf.

Patel is the only Muslim leader in the BJP who has a statewide presence, even in the rural areas of the state and was very close to Gopinath Munde. He began his political career with the Shetkari Sanathana and was affiliated with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Later, during 2001, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) due to differences with Sharad Joshi.

The problem with Pasha Patel however is that he was among the two Muslims fielded by the BJP but none could win the election.

"His name is still being considered for the post", a top BJP leader said.

Other option the BJP is considering is to induct a Jain as the Minister of Minority Affairs. The Jain community was granted minority status last year by the Cong-NCP government.

If a Jain becomes Minority Affairs Minister, he or she will be the first from the community to head the ministry.

The Minority Affairs Ministry was introduced, both at the centre and the state, by the Cong-led governments in 2009. Since then the ministry is headed by a Muslim.

In Narendra Modi's cabinet too the ministry is headed by Najma Heptullah - a Muslim.

The current assembly will have a total of 09 Muslim MLAs. Of them 05 are from Congress, 02 are from All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), and one each from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party (SP).

The last assembly had 11 Muslim MLAs, and two of them - Arif Naseem Khan and Hasan Mushrif were ministers. Fauzia Khan, the third Muslim minister in the erstwhile government was MLC.

This is the first time the BJP is forming government in Maharashtra on its own. In 1995, it formed the government in the state in alliance with the Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena leader Sabir Shaikh had served as Labour Minister in this government - the lone face from the Muslim community which constitutes about 12% of the state's total population.

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