Having courted controversy for reportedly praising Narendra Modi, Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, the former vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, has said the BJP will suffer with Modi as its face.
BJP strongman and poll panel chief Narendra Modi speaks during the BJP's National Executive meeting in Panaji, Goa on Sunday. PTI Photo
"By making Modi its election campaign committee head, the BJP has dug its grave," the former mohatamim (rector) of the influential Islamic seminary told reporters in Meerut late on Thursday.
He said "bringing Modi forward" would cost the party any Muslim votes it might have been eyeing.
In July 2011, Vastanvi was impeached after he refused to resign from the rector's post despite being asked to do so by the institution's shoora (supreme governing council).
The seminary had ordered a probe into charges that Vastanvi had praised Modi, his fellow Gujarati, whom Muslims widely blame for a pogrom against the community in 2002.
Vastanvi came under fire after he reportedly backed Modi's development policies and suggested Muslims should forget the communal riots of 2002 and move on.
Vastanvi's stated position is he never praised Modi.
"To praise a zalim (tyrant) is a crime. I never praised Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi," he had said at a public rally in Surat district in October 2012.
Set up in 1866 by Muslim clerics at the forefront of India's freedom struggle, Darul Uloom is an important seat of Sunni Islam and serves as the spiritual wellspring of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, the country's largest Muslim organisation.