In the landscaped lawns of Delhi's India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) —a prestigious club of Muslim elites —a no-holds-barred battle of minority politics is playing out.
The IICC management goes to polls on January 18, and Congress leader Salman Khurshid takes on meat baron and incumbent president Sirajuddin Qureshi in a poll that has all the trappings of a big-ticket political battle.
Khurshid, who studied in Oxford and is grandson of India's third President Dr. Zakir Hussain, is playing his elitist background to the hilt. “We cannot allow the IICC to be a centre of Muslim backwards but a lively social club and a centre for international thinkers.” This is an unveiled attack on Qureshi— a moneybag who climbed up the social ladder.
Qureshi has accused Khurshid of using the IICC elections to boost his own standing in the Congress. The Khurshid camp has alleged Qureshi was being backed by “people in the BJP” and chided him for visiting Israel and hosting rabbis.
Qureshi, who had once backed the Himayat Party to break the ice between Muslims and A.B. Vajpayee claims to be a Congressman at heart. “Being a businessmen, I have friends in all parties. But my personal loyalties are with the Congress,” Qureshi claimed.
Hamidullah Bhatt, a bureaucrat and voting member, summed up the slugfest: “When IIC had elections, nobody knew about it. When a Muslim body goes to polls, there’s so much politics.” The club in Lodi Gardens has 2,000 members, including non-Muslims, comprising politicians and bureaucrats.