‘Atalji a good person, Modi is different’

  • Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times, Ajmer
  • Updated: Nov 18, 2013 10:07 IST
Dewan-Syed-Zainul-Abedin-Ali-Khan-Dargah-Dewan-the-spiritual-head-of-the-Ajmer-dargah-in-Rajasthan-HT-Photo

A section of Muslim leaders of Uttar Pradesh might have softened the line on Narendra Modi, but Dargah Dewan, the spiritual head of the Ajmer dargah in Rajasthan, says the BJP has made a mistake by projecting him for Prime Ministership.

In an interview with the HT on Sunday, Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan — who shared a good rapport with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani — hit out at Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions.

“A communal person cannot become the Prime Minister. A person who sets caste against caste and a community against another is not a good leader,” Abedin said. “Atalji is a good person. Modi is different. The BJP made a mistake by projecting him for the top job.”

The head of the 12th century Sufi shrine does not talk lightly. “The Dargah Dewan does not issue political ‘firmans’, but his opinion is taken seriously by Muslims,” said one of his aides.

The successor of 12th century saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti has earned the respect.

Known for his moderate views, in May, he had boycotted former Pakistan PM Raja Pervez Ashraf’s visit to the shrine to protest against the gruesome beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army. And with Ajmer being a hub of RSS activities and Hindu fundamentalists targeting the dargah, Abedin speaks against terror of all hues.

Going by the list of leaders queuing up — BJP leader Vasundhara Raje, Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and BJP chief Rajnath Singh — his blessings are necessary.

Muslim leaders from Uttar Pradesh, though, doubt how much clout the Dargah Dewan commands electorally. While as a community, Muslims are wary of Modi, recently, Muslim personal law board deputy chief Maulana Kalbe Sadiq had said if Modi re-invents himself, the Muslims can revise their stand.

In this milieu, the dargah, which usually refrains from making political statements, might go unheard, especially by the Muslim hardliners.

“But all the right-minded people agree with the Dewan. We are exhorting voters to defeat the BJP at all costs,” said Milli Council leader Abdul Latif.

Heard or not, the Dargah Dewan might get his wish after all.

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