LONDON PRAYER TIME DAWN: 05:26 SUNRISE: 06:58 ZOHR:: 12:14 MAGHRIB: 17:45
India Polls: Game Changer For Muslims?
Leading Muslim imam Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari in Delhi’s Jama Masjid has announced his support for the ruling Congress party in looming elections, giving the beleaguered party a big boost of Muslim votes.
"For the coming Lok Sabha elections, I announce support for the Congress. We have to fight against communal forces,” Bukhari told a news conference on Friday, April 4, Hindustan Times reported.
"The nation faces danger from communal forces. We should ensure secular votes are not divided," he added.
The announcement came a few days ahead of April 10 elections in Delhi.
According to the leading imam, voting for the congress would "strengthen" secularism.
He also announced support to Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, a past ally of the BJP, in West Bengal and Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal, a Congress ally, in Bihar.
Bukhari, who had supported the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2009 polls, said Mulayam Singh Yadav's party had betrayed Muslims.
"Voting for the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will be a waste," Bukhari said at a press conference here.
In this year’s elections, SP is competing with the broadly called Third Front which includes Communist Party of India (Marxist), Janata Dal (United), and the AIADMK which rules in Tamil Nadu.
Another announcement was made on Friday by Mufti M Mukarram Ahmed, the influential Imam of Masjid Fatehpuri.
In his speech after Friday prayer, he appealed to ‘Hindustani voters’ to “choose a candidate who will solve the area’s problems”, be it from any party or even independent.
“I am a religious leader so I have not taken any name,” the Imam of Masjid Fatehpuri said.
“Each area has different issues and it is not necessary that a single party can provide all solutions. So it can be different party candidates in different areas.”
The announcement by imam Bukhari drew criticism from Muslim analysts, assuring that the Congress has failed Muslims for several times over the past elections.
“He (Imam Bukhari) should not have announced and (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi too should not have encouraged such a thing,” Zoya Hasan, a political scientist and a professor of political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Hindustan Times on Saturday.
“But this is applicable to all parties. Even Hindu politicians bring in religious leaders. Fundamentalism and communalism has no place in a secular democracy.”
Bukhari’s brother Yahiya Bukhari has also criticized him for supporting the Congress, which, he claimed, “has done nothing for the Muslims”.
The same opinion was shared by scores of Muslims attending Friday prayer.
Others have voiced support for the recently formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
“Muslims today are generally anti-Congress and are likely to vote where they find a solid substitute,” Matia Mahal resident Atiq Siddiqui, editor of An-Yaum (Today), an Urdu daily, said.
“In the walled city and Okhla area, it is clear that Muslims are favoring the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In Northeast Delhi, especially in Seelampur, they are inclined towards the BSP,” he added.
Maulana Nafees Ahmad Farukhi of New Seemapuri in Northeast Delhi asserted that Muslims have lost confidence in ruling Congress, adding that they will never vote for nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“We have already tried the Congress several times but not anymore,” he said.
“Muslims will never support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in my opinion the AAP has emerged as an option for us.”
Abdul Rehman Abid, a resident of Okhla, echoed similar views.
“My feeling is Muslims vote will get divided between AAP and BSP as there is an anti-Congress wave and Muslims will never vote for BJP.”