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Published in the 16-31 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT

No party to get majority in Maharashtra 

By Khalid Hudaai 

Mumbai: A false and planted news report published in Dainik Lokmat here in Mumbai has created political turbulence in Maharashtra. The largest circulated Marathi daily in Maharashtra carried a report by it's "special representative" claiming that All India Ulama Council ,a represntative body of Muslim clerics in Mumbai has issued a decree what it claims to be a "Adesh" that Muslims in Maharashtra will vote for the Congress-NCP-RPI alliance, to take revenge from Shiv Sena and Bhartiya Janata Party for their attitude towards the Muslims. The daliy cited the examples of issues raked up by saffron alliance like removal of Afzal Khan Maqbara in Wai, Dist. Satara, Uma Bharti's Tiranga Yatra, Savarkar Plaque removal in Andaman and the statements by Mani Shankar Aiyar in that regard and non-implementation of Sri Krishna Commission Report which found many politicians guilty in 1992-93 communal riots in Mumbai that killed about a 1000 or so people ,most of them happened to be Muslims. This report was rejected by the SS-BJP govt(1995-99). The then CM Mr. Manohar Joshi who later on became the speaker of the Lok Sabha in Vajpayee's regime, termed this report and it's recommendations to be "Anti Hindu". The Congress-NCP alliance promised to implement the recommendations of the Sri Krishna Commission if voted to power. Minorities in Maharashtra are particularly feeling betrayed by the Democratic Front government. But the secretary general of A. I. Ulama Council Maulana Mahmood Khan Daryabadi refuted the news report and told this correspondent that the Council has neither taken any decision nor issued any decree supporting the ruling alliance of Congress and NCP in the forthcoming state assembly elections. Later in the evening a press statement was also issued by the council stating with "utmost concern" that "Our organisation or any member at any point of time has not issued any such statement in support of any political party. " Maulana Mahmood Khan appealed to the press to do fair and factual reporting. He strongly condemned certain press {viz. Daily Lokmat} for publishing "a basless report " depicting false and distorted version of Muslim bodies which seems to be a planted news item and even not authenticated by any statement. Raees of A. I. Ulama Council said that "We have issued no decree (aadesh) asking Muslim voter's to support Congress-NCP candidates as claimed falsely by the Congress supported daily. We are analysing the situation and our decision is likely to be announced after 3-4 days only." Another source close to the Ulama Council revealed that the Muslim voters will not be going in the bag of any singular party. The representative body of Muslim Clerics in Maharashtra is in touch with several other Muslim organisations and all are unanimous that "All secular parties ,big or small ,should get their due and legitimate share of our votes. Unconditional support to a single party has yielded no fruitful results for the community in the past ." The council's survey panel will meet again to discuss this scenario. It must be noted that this is the first time that the Muslim Clerics in Mumbai are trying to build a consensus over the issue of elections. But only time will tell whether the Council will come out with a clear unanimous list of candidates as differences may emerge on whether or not to declare support to Abu Asim Azmi, a Samajwadi Party candidate from handloom city, Bhiwandi and Maulana Ather Ali another candidate of SP from Chembur, a minority and dalit dominated area in Mumbai. Hafiz Ather Ali happens to be a member of A. I. Ulama Council and many people think that he will only divide the votes, ultimately benefitting the saffron alliance candidate. So the indications are that the Ulama Council may ultimately end up giving a general call to Muslims in the state to support a candidate who is sympathetic towards the cause of Muslims and ready to serve them without any prejudice irrespective of his/her party affiliations. 

Meanwhile, a Zonal Level meeting of another dominant socio-cultural, religious body viz. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is going on in Mumbai, in which it's top state level thinkers and advisors are discussing the political situation in the state. According to information received, the Jamaat is discussing the names of all candidates in 288 assembly segments in Maharashtra. The vital information is gathered by their local branches spread all over the state. It is learnt that the ongoing meeting(Sept. 30 and Oct 1-2) of Jamaat's top brass will finalise the list of candidates in a couple of days and the names will be announced only after they receive the approval of Jamaat's central leadership. It may be remembered that the Maharashtra branch of the Jamaat had declared it's support to the Congress led alliance in the Lok Sabha elections held in May 2004. But this time many of it's political advisors are against declaring blanket support to a single political party in the forthcoming Assembly elections as they feel that this will give the winning party a free hand while a check on the governing body is necessary to preserve the democratic fabric of the society and to prevent it from becoming arrogant and insensitive towards the problems faced by the minorities and oppressed classes. 

In the mean time, Abu Asim Azmi, a Samajwadi Party candidate from Bhiwandi, and Maharashtra state president of SP has declared in an interview on October 1, that he and his party actually wants a hung assembly in Maharashtra, which goes to polls on October 13 because this way the ruling party could be checked and no ruling alliance will be in a position to neglect the demands and aspirations of the Muslims .

Another prominent minority body, viz. All India Milli Council has critisised the Sushil Kumar Shinde government for their utter negligence towards the problems and difficulties being faced by the Muslims of Maharashtra. In it's general meeting held on Sunday (September 26,2004), in Hajj House, Palton Rd., Mumbai, under the chairmanship of Maulana Yaseen Ali Usmani, a special team has been constituted consisting of 5 members i. e. Haroon Bhai Mozawala, Sarfaraz Aarzoo (Mumbai), Principal M H Shaikh (Pune), Engineer AbdurRasheed (Parbhani) and Prof. Moinuddin Khan Falahi. This team is most likely to submit it's report to the Milli Council soon.

Judging all these developments ,it is clear now that the Muslim votes in Maharashtra are sure to be distributed among all major secular parties and chances are that the tally of Samajwadi Party, Communists and PWP may increase while BSP may open an account in Maharashtra Assembly, clearly cutting the Congress combine's traditional minority vote share.

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