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Published in the 1-15 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Syed Shahabuddin

In the last issue we published an open letter from Prof Iqbal Ansari to Syed Shahabuddin. Below is Syed saheb’s reply (ed.)

Dear Prof. Iqbal Ansari,
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 6 April, 2004 on my joining the INC.
Your letter expresses your apprehension about my ability to do justice to my duties and responsibilities as the President of the AIMMM after joining the Congress.

For one thing, the AIMMM does not place any bar on the membership of anyone who is a member or an active member or even an office-bearer of a political party, except if the party concerned is generally regarded by the community as anti-Muslim, for example, the BJP.

Secondly, I am not the first Congressman in the AIMMM. Its Founder President Dr. Syed Mahmood was an eminent Congressman. So was Mufti Atiqur Rahman, his successor. Many Congress leaders have been associated with it.

Thirdly, throughout my public life, and even when I was in the IFS, I have been known for speaking out the truth as I see it. Why should you assume that I shall be partial towards Congress and turn a blind eye or keep silent, if in my considered view, it has not kept faith with its ideology. I take serious objection to your calling me a ‘political careerist’. Had I been one, I would have reached the top of the political ladder! I have not joined the Congress in quest of a political career.

Finally, how do you speak on behalf of the members of the AIMMM and the MOEMIN? You are not a member of the AIMMM. I do not know if you are a member of the MOEMIN. But so far no member of the AIMMM or of the MOEMIN has objected to my joining the Congress at this crucial juncture or expressed lack of confidence in my ability to do justice to my duties and responsibilities as the President of the AIMMM.
With best wishes etc.
Syed Shahabuddin

I thank you for the write up by Mr. Danish A. Khan on my joining the Congress on 4.4.2004. He has quoted my joining statement in parts. I enclose the full statement issued on 4 April, 2004:
"I had the honour of calling on Smt. Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress, I conveyed to her my desire to join the Party. She has graciously welcomed my desire. Since 1996, I have not been in active politics. But I feel that no responsible citizen can remain in permanent exile from politics at this juncture. I have, therefore, decided to join the Indian National Congress, not only because it is the biggest secular party but it is the instrument fashioned by Destiny:
a) To heal the wounds of the Nation
b) To restore the Idea of India
c) To revive the Nehruvian paradigm of Democracy and Secularism
d) To place Foreign Policy back on the rails of Independence and Non-alignment.
As a disciplined soldier, I hope to canvass extensively for the Congress Party in the coming election to help defeat the forces of Reaction and Deception".

I object to his comment that I was 'brought into politics'. He has insinuated that Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee who was the Foreign Minister when I took premature retirement from the IFS in November, 1978 had brought me into politics. This is totally untrue. I had made up my mind to leave the Service and join politics during the Emergency, much before Vajpayee became the Foreign Minister. In fact when I applied for premature retirement — the first member of the IFS, IAS and IPS to do so, under the new Rules — then he tried to persuade me not to quit. But 8 months later, when a seat fell vacant in the Rajya Sabha from Bihar with the demise of a member, the Janata Party Parliamentary Board of which he was a member unanimously nominated me as the candidate on the night before the last date of filing the nomination. This was its last meeting of the Board, because the Government fell and the Party broke within 2 weeks, even before I was elected. 
Syed Shahabuddin

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