Twenty years after he admonished the then Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, Syed Abdullah Bukhari, for dabbling in Uttar Pradesh politics — the Maulana had campaigned for the Janata Dal in the 1991 Assembly elections — Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh has joined forces with the late cleric's son and the present Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, to win over Muslims in the poll-bound State.
Coming out in open support of Mr. Singh, Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari appealed to Muslims to back the SP in the polls.
In fact, the first indication of a ‘patch-up' and a possible ‘tie-up' between Mr. Singh and the Shahi Imam (he has been a vocal critic of Mulayam) became evident when Maulana Bukhari's son-in-law, Umar Khan, was made the party candidate from Behat in Saharanpur district. Mr. Singh's move was resented by the party's Rajya Sabha member Rashid Masood — even the SP's ‘Muslim face' Mohammad Azam Khan was said to be unhappy. Mr. Masood later quit the SP and joined the Congress.
“The promises made in the SP poll manifesto had convinced me there is a ray of hope for Muslims, and after talks with Mulayam Singh ‘sahab' on the quota issue I came to Lucknow to issue an appeal to the minority community to support the SP,” the Shahi Imam said at a function held at a five-star hotel here on Saturday. The SP chief was present.
With the race between the Congress and the SP getting into top gear before the first vote is cast on February 8 in the seven-tier Assembly elections, the Shahi Imam slammed the Congress for “conspiring to make Muslims backward and poor.” Referring to communal violence, he said Muslims had been the worst sufferers in the riots. “Now, they are being targeted in the name of terrorism.”
He alleged that two innocent Muslim youths were killed in the fake encounter at Batla House, but the demand for a judicial inquiry was rejected by the Congress. “A judicial probe would have revealed the ugly face of the Congress,” he added.
“Investigations have revealed the involvement of some Hindu organisations in the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Samjhauta Express and Ajmer Sharif blasts, but only Muslims are viewed with suspicion,” the Shahi Imam alleged.
Lauding the SP president, he said “Mulayam Singh sahab” was magnanimous enough to admit his mistake of aligning with Kalyan Singh and expressing regret, “unlike the Congress which, till today, had not admitted its mistake in the demolition of the Babri mosque.”
“The heart-burning (khalis) among the Muslims has ended after Mr. Singh accepted that his party had made a mistake of going with Kalyan Singh.”
Rejecting the UPA government's decision on 4.5 per cent quota for backward Muslims, the Maulana demanded reservation for Muslims in proportion to their population.
Mr. Singh reciprocated the Shahi Imam's gesture and assured him that he would not let down Muslims, and defended proposed 18 per cent reservation for the minority community. He said the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra reports had said that the condition of Muslims was worse than that of Dalits. Mr. Singh said 4.5 per cent reservation was for the minorities and not for Muslims alone as was being made out.
Some ‘ulema' from Darul Uloom, Deoband, including Maulana Noorul Huda and Maulana Mufti Arshad Farooqui, were present.