With politicians of all hues making a beeline for Ulema (clerics) to ensure patronage, Jamiat Ulema Hind (JUH) president Maulana Arshad Madni has called upon Muslims to vote tactically to defeat the BJP.
His message, published in an Urdu daily on Wednesday, comes a day before the second phase of polling in western Uttar Pradesh and Rohilkhand (Bareilly division).
The message also comes in the backdrop of information that the community was sharply divided during the first round of voting in western UP on April 10.
Maulana Arshad Madni, who was closely associated with the Samajwadi Party during the last two years, has asked Muslims to pick up any “winning” candidate from a secular formation this time.
Though the community has voted tactically over the years, this is the first time Maulana Arshad Madni has given such a public call. The JUH is considered old school and has wide appeal across western UP.
Maulana Arshad Madni’s message is in contrast to Delhi Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari’s call to the community to vote for the Congress.
“Remember! Lack of unity and division of votes against communal forces is in fact helping them,” Maulana Arshad Madni said in his message.
He added it was responsibility of Muslim voters to join hands with other secular forces to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Targeting the BJP, he referred to the party’s promise in its manifesto on drafting a uniform civil code. The cleric sees this as a major threat to the community.
In its manifesto, the BJP has stated it believes that “there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a uniform civil code, which protects the rights of all women”.
The JUH chief’s move coincides with BJP president Rajnath Singh, who is also candidate from Lucknow, meeting both Sunni and Shia Ulema to enlist their support.
Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad, who is opposed to the Congress, has showered praise on Singh.
“We are scared of Narendra Modi (BJP prime ministerial nominee) but Rajnath Singh has the acceptability of (former PM Atal Bihari) Vajpayee,” he said after the meeting on Monday evening.
Amid the fluid situation, rival Jamiat Ulema Hind general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madni had recently said parties should not try to frighten Muslims in Modi’s name.
Modi's critics accuse him of not doing enough to contain the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat under his watch as chief minister.