Keen to improve BJP’s reach among Muslims in view of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a meeting was held here on Tuesday in which the party’s Muslim leaders urged the backward sections of the community to take advantage of the government’s pro-poor initiatives.

The meeting, organised under the banner of Bharatiya Mulim Pichada Varg Mahasammelan, was addressed by leaders including former MP Sabir Ali, who had left the Janata Dal-United to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Minorities Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Ali, the main organiser of the event, said that Muslims were keen to take advantage of the development initiatives of the NDA government and were not willing to be treated as “vote banks” by political parties.

“We need to introspect seriously. It’s been 70 years since the country got independence but the condition of Muslims still remains the same. The person who used weave clothes or apply punctures, their families are still in the same trade. We should take advantage of Modi government’s pro-poor policies,” he said.

Ali said “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” was not a mere slogan of the government and there was no discrimination in implementation of various government schemes.

He said they will reach out to Muslim community and make them aware about the initiatives of the government including in areas of boosting entreprenuership and skills.

Naqvi, in his speech, said Congress had done did little for the Muslim community in its long rule and accused it of practising an “appeasement policy.”

“During the Congress rule, the benefits of schemes for minorities were derived by a section and it did not reach the masses. Now the schemes are reaching the poor and the needy including those belonging to the minority community,” he said.

He said NDA government had started several schemes for the minority community.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had during the BJP national executive meeting at Bhubaneswar in April this year had said that there were backward and marginalised sections among Muslims the government must address their concerns.

Modi had asked the party leaders and workers to hold district-level meetings over the issues of backward Muslims and women.

BJP sources said that it was the first occasion when Ali and Naqvi had come together on a public platform. Naqvi had opposed Ali’s entry into BJP the run up to 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ali was inducted into the party in 2015 ahead of Bihar assembly polls.