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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Syed Shahabuddin joins Congress

Syed Shahabuddin New Delhi: In an ideological shift marked with irony and with the professed aim to "defeat politics of deception", famous Muslim politician and thinker, Syed Shahabuddin, finally decided that it was about time to join the "secular" Congress Party and stop the Hindutva forces in their tracks from storming their way into power yet again. 

"Muslims were not the votebank of any party nor were they "slaves" (of any party)," Mr Shahabuddin said while joining the Congress. Surprisingly, during the current poll eve when Bollywood stars were being vigourously courted by political parties, Syed Shahabuddin seems to have joined the Congress Party on his own. Interestingly, two female Muslim Bollywood stars of yesteryears, Farah and Naghma, too joined the Congress Party along with Mr Shahabuddin on 4 April after being constantly courted and with due invitation.

"I had the honour to meet the Congress president this morning. I conveyed my desire to join the party. Very graciously she welcomed my request," Mr Shahabuddin said, adding "I have joined the Congress to heal the wounds of the nation, to reconstruct India on the Nehruvian model... and to place India's foreign policy on the rail of non-alignment." 

Syed Shahabuddin rose into prominence during the Shah Bano case during the '80s. Mr Shahabuddin extensively campaigned against the Supreme Court ruling across the country. The ruling was later overturned by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of the Congress Party. In the course Mr Gandhi was accused of subverting the due process of law and unduly indulging in the appeasement of Muslims.

Later, Syed Shahabuddin gained even more popularity when he raked up the long-forgotten Babari Masjid issue. However, when the Babari Masjid was demolished on 6 December 1992 Mr Shahabuddin vociferously rebuked the then Narasimha Rao-led Congress Party government at the Centre for allowing the Masjid to be demolished. Mr Shahabuddin had all along remained a diehard critic of the Rajiv Gandhi government's decision to unlock the gates of the disputed Babari Masjid.

At present, besides being the president of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Syed Shahabuddin is also the convenor of the Babari Masjid Coordination Committee. Mr Shahabuddin, who hails from Gaya district in Bihar, before being brought into politics was in the Indian Foreign Service holding the post of Indian ambassador to Algeria as his last assignment.

Syed Shahabuddin entered into politics in 1977 when the present prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of the Jana Sangh was the foreign minister in the Janata Party government. Mr Shahabuddin was a member of the upper house of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) during 1979-84. He also represented Kishanganj (Bihar) in the Lok Sabha twice 1984-89 and 1991-96.

Though Syed Shahabuddin has declared that he would not be contesting the general elections but it is being speculated that the prominent Muslim politician is eyeing for a berth in the Rajya Sabha in future. 

Danish A. Khan

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