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National Loktantrik Party: a promising sign
By Our Own Correspondent

Rampur: When talks for launching a Muslim political forum are dying down there is amazingly a serious effort being made by some diehard optimists in this regard. And behold, amazingly results are showing that things after all are not so bleak.

Though there have been speculations in New Delhi on an imminent launch of a Muslim political party and several big shots have shown interest in the issue, nothing concrete has been done in this regard. Imam of the Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmad Bukhari was a leading name in the venture, but things seem to have taken a beating after pressure from several quarters on the issue and lack of any sincerity of the people involved in it. There were also reports that the proposed political party disintegrated even before its launch on the issue of leading it. 

But far from the media glare and air-conditioned offices, there are people who are doing some real work in this regard. They have created a space in the overcrowded political space in Uttar Pradesh, which is shortly going to polls. 

Dr Masood, former education minister in the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh who resigned from his post after the BSP aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been slowly but deftly working on his nascent political outfit National Loktantrk Party. For more than five years Dr Masood has been working at grassroots level to develop a base for itself in several districts in the state. Though much has not been heard about him but indications show that the party can surprise many in a very short time. 

Very few people knew him when Dr Masood started working on an independent party. Others predicted doom for him. They didn't believe that any Muslim leader can launch a successful political party in a state like Uttar Pradesh where SP and BSP have taken control of most of the Muslim votes. The few other votes left go to the Congress. They don't think that there is any chance of success for any party launched by Muslims. It has been Muslims' thinking too for quite some time. They say that they have seen what happens to the lone Muslim political party, Muslim League, in UP. In most of places it even fails to save its deposits. 

Though the sort of success that anyone gives importance has not come to National Loktantrik Party so far, it was able to make its presence felt in the local bodies elections conducted in the state early last year. It won several dozens of local body seats forcing others to feel its presence in the local political arena.

The biggest success for the party and Dr Masood came when he organized an impressive rally in Lucknow in opposition to the Religious Places Bill introduced by the BJP government in the state. The bill intended to restrict Muslim's religious freedom by imposing curbs on construction or even maintenance of mosques and madrasas. Its rally in the state capital, Lucknow was a grand success and it was attended by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the state.

'Dr Masood is really trying hard. He is trying to work at grass root level' says Waseem Ghazi a senior social activist in New Delhi. 'He is just not issuing statements from his office but visiting villages, towns and cities creating a base for his organization' adds Ghazi. Though political parties in the state are still not prepared to accept him as a serious player in the state, there are leaders who say that he has been able to make an impact in Uttar Pradesh. A senior Samajwadi party leader and Rajya Sabha member told this correspondent that all political parties are vary of accepting Dr Masood's presence in the Party due to his increasing influence in a large section of Muslim population. The leader who wished to remain anonymous told this correspondent that it may not be possible for him to win assembly seats in this election but in the next elections he will certainly do better. Dr Masood on the other hand says that his party is sure to win several seats this time too. He says that National Loktantrik Party is poised to win several seats in western Uttar Pradesh. He adds that his cadres' work will certainly pay dividends for the party. 

When asked as to what he aims through the National Loktantrik Party, he says that though Muslims constitute around twenty percent of the state population, their political power is on the decline. 'Unlike Yadavs and Dalits and other castes they are not accepted as a formidable political force. They are merely used as vote bank to help others serve their political interests. He adds that this has reduced Muslims' political power to zero and he intends to change all this. 

Dr Masood says that he wants to prove that Muslims still can be taken seriously by other parties. He says that when Yadavs, Dalits, Upper caste Hindus can have their own political parties, why cannot Muslims. He says that he is trying to attract backward castes and other segments too towards his party and they are responding in greater numbers. 

Though not much can be said of this assembly elections as the outfit is very new, but indications are that it will be able to win at least two to three seats through its tie ups with other parties including the Congress that has been sending feelers to it. Much also depends on how this party is able to reach out to the masses.
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