BJP-SP divide Muslim vote to check Congress

By Vinod Agnihotri

New Delhi: The BJP and SP have initiated a new move to check Congress. The BJP, which has lost all hope of electoral backing from Muslims, has extended support to select Muslim candidates in nearly two dozen constituencies of Uttar Pradesh where Muslims have a sizeable presence. These candidates have the potential to spoil the game for Congress candidates.

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Simultaneously, the Samajwadi Party, too, has joined the BJP in the game seeing Muslim vote moving towards Congress and BSP. According to the reliable sources, such Muslim leaders who can undermine Muslim electoral support of the Congress in UP and Bihar, have been provided with two helicopters and a large fund to carry out their plan.

Among the leading figures in this campaign are LK Advani’s adviser Suhendra Kulkarni and the president of India Islamic Culture Centre, Sirajuddin Qureshi. In 2004, too, Qureishi had tried to woo Muslim intellectuals on behalf of BJP. This campaign is particularly focussed on Uttar Pradesh because BJP strategists are convinced that if Muslim votes are divided in UP, it would halt the Congress advance and help the BJP gain more seats.

Before the elections, a meeting was held at Advani’s house in Delhi to decide the strategy. Among the participants were Kulkarni, Qureshi and the head of Peace Party, Dr Ayyub. Peace Party was formed ostensibly to get Muslims their rights. Dr. Abdul Mannan and MH Khan were also present. Qureshi is close to Advani, while Khan is close to BJP president Rajnath Singh. Nelopa’s Arshad Khan, too, is part of the campaign.

It was decided that in the 20 constituencies of the state along with another ten constituencies Peace Party workers would work to divert Muslim votes from the Congress Party by supporting the Peace Party’s as well as other parties’ strong Muslim candidates. Some of these seats are: Gorakhpur, Dumariyaganj, Kaiserganj, Faizabad, Sant Kabir Nagar, Kushi Nagar, Deoria, Gonda, Shrawasti, Bharaich, Barabanki, Gazipur, Balia, Salempur, Bijnaur, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Nagina, Bareli, Sambhal and Fatehpur Sikri.

According to sources these Muslim leaders out to undermine the Congress Party, were given helicopters and cash to carry out their campaign. The cash was made available to them by an industrialist supporter of a deceased BJP leader in a hotel in Mumbai. The money is said to run in several crores of rupees. Some candidates were sent the money immediately, others are being sent now.

On the other side, Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh, too, have intensified their campaign to subvert the Muslim support to Congress. The Samajwadi Party has made the move in view of Azam Khan’s rebellion and the fatwa of muftis to boycott the party as it had taken in Kalyan Singh, who as chief minister of UP was responsible for Babri Masjid demolition. Mulayam’s men have contacted the Delhi Jama Masjid imam, Ahmad Bukhari, who fiercely opposed to Azam Khan.

Some of the imam’s men are going to Lucknow on the invitation of Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh. They will meet at a five-star hotel to discuss the strategy to divert Muslim votes to SP in coming phases of parliamentary elections. The SP has agreed to provide helicopters and other essential requirements for the mission.

— Vinod Agnihotri is political editor of Hindi daily Nai Duniya.