'Islamists' who Muslims often sidestep | delhi | Hindustan Times
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'Islamists' who Muslims often sidestep

delhi Updated: Jan 09, 2012 01:30 IST
Zia Haq

"They are the inconsequential Islamists who Muslims have never really voted for," says Jasim Mohammed of the Aligarh-based Forum for Muslim Studies and Analysis.

The Congress can take heart from this view of a hurriedly sewn alliance of 13 smaller pocket-borough parties, many of them led by Muslims, out to queer its pitch in Uttar Pradesh when it is trying to regain touch with the community.

The alliance - Ittehad Front (or unity front) - has been cobbled up by an All India Muslim Personal Law Board member and Sunni teacher of theology at Lucknow's Nadvatul Ulama seminary, Maulana Salman Nadvi. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/09-01-12-metro9f.jpg

Put plainly, the front comprises a raft of political wannabes, notably the Peace Party of Ayub Ansari, Qaumi Ekta Dal of Mukhtar Ansari, Ittehad-e-Millat Council of Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan, Bundelkhand Congress of Raja Bundela, among others.

The Peace Party is fast losing sheen after coming second in two by-elections last year, say observers. Its alliances, first with Amar Singh's Lok Manch and then with Rashtriya Lok Dal, did not gel. This has prompted Ayub Ansari, a doctor, to switch to cleric Nadvi's front.

Muslims shifted decisively away from the Congress after the 16th-century Babri mosque was destroyed by right-wing Hindu mobs in 1992. The shift is interpreted as a punishment to the party for not protecting the structure.

"A large section of Muslims feel let down by mainstream parties. A legitimate political space for them exists," says SQR Illyasi of the Welfare Party, one of the new entrants in the front.

Despite this disenchantment, the "Islamists" of UP - a bellwether state in Indian politics - have never quite achieved popular appeal.

In the 2007 assembly polls, Delhi's Jama Masjid imam Ahmed Bukhari and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal found no takers for their United Democratic Front. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Ulama Council floated by a firebrand cleric from Azamgarh, Amir Rashid, failed. AJ Faridi's Muslim Majlis had won 10 seats back in 1967, but disintegrated by the next polls. "But trends," says a hopeful Nadvi, "can always change."