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Congress Wooing Muslims
By P.M. Damodaran
|Lucknow: With the Assembly elections in
Uttar Pradesh drawing nearer, the Congress has chalked out an action plan
to woo the Muslims. The appointment of Mr. Nadeem Ashraf Jaisi, a Muslim,
recently as U.P. Youth Congress president is considered as the first step
by the party to lure the minority community into its fold before the
Assembly polls in early next year.
Mr. Jaisi is the first Muslim leader to occupy the post in decades if, not
forever. Mr. Jaisi hails from a family of religious Muslims leaders who
have considerable clout among the Barelvi thought of Muslims.
Significantly, He hails from Jais, which forms a part of Amethi Lok Sabha
constituency which is represented by the Congress President, Mrs. Sonia
Gandhi. Mr. Jaisi was nominated as state Youth Congress chief ahead of the
claims of several other serious contenders for the post.
The Congress was encouraged by the reported good participation of Muslims
in some public meetings addressed by Mrs. Gandhi in U.P. during the past
one month. The Congress sources claimed that particularly a large number
of people from the minority community had attended the meeting in Meerut,
a Muslim dominated area. This had prompted the party to hold
district-level conferences in some of Muslim-dominated districts in the
state before the holy month of Ramadan beginning on November 16. These
districts included some Western districts where the Muslim population has
high concentration like Meerut, Moradabad, Aligarh, Rampur, Saharanpur,
Bareilly and Bijnore. The state Congress is also planning to hold its
executive committee meeting in Aligarh, a Muslim-dominated area,
apparently to woo the minority community ahead of the Assembly polls.
In fact the Congress is now trying to make inroads into the support base
of the Samajwadi Party among the Muslims. At present the Samajwadi Party
has the majority support among the Minority community if the results of
the last few general elections were any indication. In fact the Samajwadi
Party derives its strength from the support of the Muslims and Yadavs
among the other backward classes. This had prompted the party to oppose
the ban on the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The Samajwadi
Party maintained the view that the Hindu fundamentalist outfits like the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal were more threat to the
national security than SIMI.
The Congress, on the other hand, as such did not oppose the ban on SIMI.
In fact some Congress-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra had
suggested to the Centre to impose a ban on the organisation due to its
anti-national activities. But at the same time the chief ministers of
these states had simultaneously demanded the ban on the VHP and the
Bajrang Dal also along with SIMI. They had alleged that the government was
indulging in double standards in banning SIMI alone while sparing the
Hindu fundamentalist outfits.
Though some Congress-ruled states had supported the ban on SIMI, the
Congress in Uttar Pradesh had opposed the decision. The President of the
state unit of the Congress, Mr. Sri Prakash Jaiswal, had remarked that the
ban was unwarranted as the government had other ways to deal with the
threat from SIMI, if any. The state unit of the Congress had taken a
different view from the party leaders in other states apparently in view
of the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state in which the votes of
the Muslims would play a significant role.
The Bahujan Samaj Party, a major force in U.P. politics, has also some
base among the Muslims. But over the years, the BSP, which mainly thrives
on the support of the dalits, had lost its clout among the minority
community after it had joined hands with the BJP to rule the state twice
during the last decade. q
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