Just as the Congress had feared, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind on Saturday ratified the removal of its pro-Congress president Arshad Madni, replacing him with Qari Mohammad Usman, who is vice-rector of the powerful Darul Uloom, Deoband.
With this, many believe the last pro-Congress pillar of the wide-reaching Jamiat has fallen. Its reins have also slipped back directly into the hands of its parent organisation, Darul Uloom, after a gap of several decades.
The Jamiat is the country’s oldest Muslim organisation, which had played a major role in the nation's freedom struggle. It has electoral influence in several states, including UP, Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. In Assam, for example, state Jamiat president Badruddin Ajmal has 10 members in the Assembly.
The 70-year-old Arshad was in the throes of a power struggle with his nephew and current Jamiat general secretary Mahmood Madni, a Rashtriya Lok Dal MP. His exit is a clear signal that the organisation is drifting away from the Congress, which it had traditionally been supporting thus far.
In a deft move, the Mahmood camp on Saturday convened an emergent meeting of its entire governing council of 2,785 members from various states. A "verbal vote" was held followed by a signature campaign, in which an overwhelming majority of state presidents ratified the decision to oust Arshad. The vote was held in presence of four independent observers, including former high court judge Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Safdar Hussain Khan, senior general manager of the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation.
The ouster of Arshad assumes significance because of the impending general elections, as key Darul officials and Mahmood are clear about not supporting the Congress.
"I respect Arshad Madni but he was creating problems by dissolving duly elected state Jamiat committees. It's clear that he was being misguided," Mahmood told the HT without naming any political party.
The Mahmood camp has been accusing the Congress of trying to engineer a split in the Jamiat. "The Congress offered Arshad a Rajya Sabha ticket from Assam in return for a promise to help in the general elections," a Jamiat source told HT .