Days after attacking Sonia Gandhi for meeting Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid -- who later asked Muslims to vote for Congress -- BJP president Rajnath Singh has held discussions with prominent clerics of the minority community in Lucknow.
BJP president and Lucknow candidate Rajnath Singh with Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq during a meeting in Lucknow. (PTI photo)
The meeting set off speculations that Singh, who is BJP's candidate from Lucknow, was trying to garner support of Muslims who constitute a fourth of the constituency's population.
Singh, along with sitting MP Lalji Tandon and Mayor Dinesh Sharma, on Monday night met respected Shia clerics Kalbe Sadiq, Kalbe Jawad, Hamidul Hasan, Yasoob Abbas and Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali. Lucknow has about 1.8 lakh Shias.
On Tuesday, Maulana Kalbe Jawad praised the BJP president by comparing him to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"We are scared of Narendra Modi, but Rajnath Singh has the acceptability of Vajpayee," the cleric told NDTV.
He said no fatwa would be issued to influence Muslims voters, but he would present "his views" before the community
While Tandon said problems faced by the Muslims, not politics, were discussed at the meetings, Singh told NDTV that his outreach cannot be compared with Sonia's meeting with Shahi Imam.
"I respect all communities but will never appease anyone. I am not asking clerics for votes on religion. I will never ask for a political fatwa," he told NDTV.
However, Maulana Farangi Mahali said the meeting was held in a good atmosphere during which discussions took place on the issues related to Muslims.
He said Singh had old relations with his father and had been visiting him even when he was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.