Even as there has been no reaction from the Samajwadi Party president, Mulayam Singh, a day after the Shahi Imam, Syed Abdullah Bukhari rejected his son-in-law's (Umar Ali Khan) candidature for the Vidhan Parishad elections, the SP's ‘Muslim face' Mohammad Azam Khan has taken up the cudgels against the Maulana. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister's opposition to the Shahi Imam is well-known and the latest development has given Mr. Khan another opportunity to take pot-shots at Imam Bukhari.
On Saturday, Mr. Khan fired another salvo at the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, albeit without naming him, by questioning his credentials as leader of Muslims when he could not prevent his son-in-law from losing his deposit in Behat in Saharanpur district in the recent Assembly elections. Mr. Khan told journalists in Rampur, his home town, that the seat where the “Bade Imam Saheb's” son-in-law contested the polls from, accounted for the Muslims comprising of about 80 per cent of the total electorate.
In a letter written to Mr. Singh on Friday, the Shahi Imam accused him of ignoring the interests of the Muslims when it comes to giving them adequate representation. Reminding the Samajwadi president that the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh were 20 per cent as compared to the 7 percent of Yadavs, Maulana Bukhari said that only one seat was given to a Muslim in last month's Rajya Sabha elections, and that too to an unknown person from Madhya Pradesh (Munawwar Saleem). He even questioned Mulayam's decision to send Darshan Singh Yadav to the Rajya Sabha. Rejecting Mr. Singh's decision to give the Vidhan Parishad ticket to Maulana Bukhari's son-in-law, Umar Ali Khan, the Shahi Imam said the issue of Muslims' rights cannot end with simply giving the ticket to his son-in-law. He demanded that Muslims be given equal representation.
At the outset, the Shahi Imam appeared concerned at the SP chief's supposed ignorance of the Muslims, but sources said Maulana Bukhari was irked that his son-in-law was denied a Rajya Sabha nomination by Mr. Singh. It is alleged that Imam Bukhari had also lobbied for a Rajya Sabha ticket for his brother, Tayyab.
The Mulayam-Bukhari pact was sealed before the 2012 State Assembly polls, despite opposition from senior Samajwadi Party leaders, including Rasheed Masood. Mr. Masood left the party and joined the Congress after the Shahi Imam's son-in-law was given the SP ticket from Behat. Even Mr. Azam Khan was unhappy at the arrangement and was reported to have said that a loyal Muslim worker of the party would have been a better choice. Mr. Mulayam Singh's tie-up with the Shahi Imam was seen as a marriage of convenience with the SP president eyeing the Muslim vote, exploring all the options towards this objective and likewise, the Maulana wanting a ticket for Umar Ali Khan in return for his support.
Now that the Mulayam-Bukhari split appeared on the cards, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister has reiterated that religious leaders should not dabble in politics.