Among the new office-bearers, whose names were announced on Saturday, Rumana Siddiqui, a housewife, is president of the minority wing of the party.
Except the women’s wing, which is always headed by a woman, the BJP has never had a woman heading any of its four other wings which include the Kisan morcha, SC/ST morcha, youth morcha and minority morcha. Besides, the party has 31 cells and none of them was ever headed by a woman.
Rumana has replaced Shahafat Hussain, who was appointed president of the minority wing by former state president Surya Pratap Shahi.
Party sources said the idea behind Rumana’s appointment was to reach out to Muslim families through their female members. Wife of a businessman in Lucknow, Rumana is associated with the BJP since 2004 and was secretary of the minority wing about five years back. She is also a member of the national executive of the party’s minority wing.
Rumana admits that associating Muslims with the party has always been a challenge for the BJP. “But being a woman, I can approach the women in the kitchens of Muslim families where men cannot go. I will convince Muslim women and other family members that BJP is their well-wisher and they should support the party in the next Lok Sabha election,” Rumana said.
A graduate in political science from Delhi University, Rumana will soon form her team and prepare a list of activities that the minority wing will perform to attract Muslims to the party.
“I am still receiving good wishes from party leaders and workers. I have held positions in the past also but this is the first time I am receiving such a huge response,” she said.
State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai said, “The new team has been constituted in order to approach all sections and communities. This is the first time a Muslim woman will head a party wing and that is a positive move.”
Former MLC Seema Rizvi, who died in 2009, was the last prominent Muslim woman in the party in UP. She was associated with the party’s minority wing, but did not hold any post.
Under the party constitution, BJP nominates women on at least 33 per cent positions in the organisation. Bajpai said there are 41 women in the new 105-member state team. “Such a large number of women has been given positions in the party in order to approach every family in rural as well as urban areas,” he said.