IMPAR: A newly formed ‘Muslim’ think tank and its alleged ties with BJP

Photo source from ICFA All India Farmers Federation

By Mahibul Hoque,  

Delhi: While representations by Muslim community in socio-political sphere of India largely remain meagre, a think tank consisting prominent Muslim figures is a welcome step. To represent the interests of the community, more than 200 Muslim leaders came together to form Indian Muslims for Progress and Reforms (IMPAR), a policy advocacy forum in April 2020.

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However, the forum is attracting scepticism as it’s convenor and at least one member sparked rows for their alleged association with the ruling Hindutva nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP and its ideologue the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The forum which claims to act as a ‘think tank’ is the brain child of one MJ Khan and he holds the chairman portfolio of the group. But Khan had close ties with the BJP, in fact he once became a part of the saffron party.

On August 18, 2013, the then chief minister of Gujarat and then Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP, Narendra Modi launched a campaign and asked the right wing party leaders to reach out to Muslims – a tactic then seem to woo Muslim voters for the 2014 general elections. On the following day that year the then president of the BJP Rajnath Singh had announced that MJ Khan, the then general secretary of Uttar Pradesh based Peace Party, joined the Hindutva party.

Khan’s, along with at least 200 Peace Party members, switching allegiance was striking as the turncoat just before the crucial 2014 Lok Sabha elections was visibly against the interest of minority Muslims. It was not only seen as at par the BJP politics, Khan’s defection had hurt the regional party which own four assembly seats in the 2012 UP assembly elections.

Photo source ICFA All India Farmers Federation

During formal joining, now defence minister Singh had said that Khan’s association with the BJP was more than a decade old. The top BJP leader then had said, “Dr. Khan has been a strong support to BJP during the last 14 years and his formally joining would greatly help the party to strengthen its farmers agenda as well as in reaching out to the Muslim community, especially the Muslim youths across the country.”

Apart from being in politics, Khan has been involved in various organisations that mostly work on agriculture related affairs. These include Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture (ICFA) and International Agriculture Consulting Group (IACG). He was also the editor of Agriculture Today, a monthly magazine from 1996 to 2001.Morever, according a report, during 2013, he was president of Agriculture Professionals Group and National Economic Forum of Muslims (NEFM), which seems to have ceased their operations.

Presently Khan holds the chairman and president portfolios at ICFA and IACG respectively. Interestingly, when searched on National Institution for Transforming India or the NITI Aayog’s ngodarpan website (to get government funding it is mandatory for NGOs to register at this portal), Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture seems to be registered as Indian Council of Food and Agriculture. We make this claim after investigating the details mentioned in the government website where ICFA provides their website URL as This website leads to the home page of Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture.

Furthermore, in 2016, ICFA, which is working as an agri think tank, launched a national level alliance of farmers named All India Farmers Alliance (AIFA) with 44 farmers’ bodies as its members. The alliance’s have actively propagated the ruling government’s stand on farmers’ issues.

Khan’s close ties with the BJP leadership can be ascertained by the fact that since its inception in 2015 ICFA has been organising Global Agro Summit where the ruling party’s top leaders such as former UP governor Ram Naik, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu among others had participated.

Photo source: facebook

However, Khan denied of any vested interest behind launching IMPAR and said, “to create a positive image of Muslim community among the people of India by presenting rational and articulate people from the community in mass media debate was one of the reasons behind organising IMPAR.” He added that the group wanted to provide prominent Muslim people to represent the community in the national television TV channels in instead of religious leaders.

Commenting on his political affiliation Khan was of the view that the ruling Hindutva nationalist party no more need to Muslims to be in their fold. He argued that the top Muslim leaders who are in the BJP were asked not to participate in election campaigns during the last general elections as that would have gone their against their anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Commenting on Muslims associating with the RSS Khan expressed his sympathy and said, “….being involved with the RSS means sacrificing one’s emotions.”

Apart from Khan, IMPAR’s another steering committee member attracted criticism for inviting a top RSS leader to an award  function at his educational institute. The person in question is educationalist PA Inamdar, who is the head of Azam University.

On August 29, 2105 Azam Campus headed by Inamdar invited MRM patron Indresh Kumar who has been accused in the Ajmer blast. The RSS leader attended the ‘Muslim Ladies Program cum Fatimabi Shaikh Award ceremony’ attracting major irk towards the Inamdar led organisation. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) had alleged that the event as safronisation of Muslim educational institute.

Another senior journalist and editor of Urdu daily Nayi Duniya Shahid Siddiqui also drew irk from many quarters for interviewing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In July 2012 Siddiqui had interviewed the then Gujarat chief minister Modi which was seen as favouring politically to the BJP leader for the next general elections which was scheduled two years later.

PM Modi who by and large do not give interviews, agreeing to be interviewed by a Muslim journalist was perceived as a conscious move. Indeed, Siddiqui had asked difficult questions but for an orator like PM Modi, it was not tough for him to turn the tables. It was in this interview where PM Modi in response to Gujarat riots had said “hang me if I am guilty”. However, Siddiqui had rejected all criticisms and defended his interviewing of Modi.