BJP fields Muslim candidate for Okhla Assembly seat

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

New Delhi: While heads are rolling in the BJP over its senior leader Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah – the chain began with the author himself followed by the party strategist and L K Advani’s speech writer Sudheendra Kulkarni – the party has decided to field a Muslim candidate for Delhi’s Muslim-dominated Okhla Assembly constituency wherein falls the ‘infamous’ Batla House.

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The Okhla seat got vacant after sitting Congress MLA Parvez Hashmi was nominated by the party to the Rajya Sabha. The bypoll for the seat will be held on September 10.

The area came into limelight last year after the September 19 Batla House encounter in which two terror suspects were killed besides a Delhi Police Inspector. The BJP made the encounter and terrorism (read Islamic terrorism) a campaign issue. The entire area was described as the hub of terrorists.

The party yesterday announced the candidature of Irfan Ahmed, said to be attached with the party’s national minority cell and close to party MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, for the Okhla seat.

However, the Congress, which has won the seat in all four assembly elections, has not yet announced its candidate. Its three-time MLA Parvez Hashmi, who before the last year election had won all three elections with massive margins, could just manage to win the seat fourth time. Former councillor and RJD candidate Asif Muhammad Khan, whose sole issue was the Batla House encounter, ended up just 500 votes behind Hashmi. Khan has already announced he will fight for the seat again. While names of Hashmi’s son and wife are making rounds, the Congress high command is yet to make up mind. The party leadership is not unaware of the fact that the encounter issue is still fresh in people’s mind. Rather, it got fresh lease of life with the NHRC’s one-sided report on the encounter and its clean chit to the Delhi Police for killing the suspects.