Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi, on Friday declared his support to the Congress party, saying it will "strengthen" secularism.
He also announced support to Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, a past ally of the BJP, in West Bengal and Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal, a Congress ally, in Bihar.
Considered an influential religious leader, Bukhari termed communalism a "bigger threat" than corruption and appealed to Muslims to support the Congress. He, however, clarified the appeal was not a fatwa.
Read: 'Secular vote' must not split, Sonia tells Muslims
Bukhari, who had supported the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2009 polls, said Mulayam Singh Yadav's party had betrayed Muslims.
"Voting for the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will be a waste," Bukhari said at a press conference here.
He said though the Muslim community had grievances against the Congress, the decision to support the party was taken as the "country cannot be allowed to go to the communal forces".
"For the coming Lok Sabha elections, I announce support for the Congress. We have to fight against communal forces.
"The nation faces danger from communal forces. We should ensure secular votes are not divided," he said.
The announcement came three days after he met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who had appealed for a united move to stop the so-called "secular votes" from splitting.
The meeting had evoked a sharp response from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which, according to opinion polls, has an edge in the general elections.
The party's prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi, who is being attacked by political opponents for the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed nearly 950 Muslims, had urged the Election Commission to take action against Gandhi for trying to polarise the elections.
Referring to the meeting, Bukhari said, "I hope the Congress will keep its promises to Muslims... We spoke to Sonia Gandhi at length on various issues."He added, "Till Muslims get the same rights and privileges enjoyed by other citizens of the country, our fight will continue."
Read:BJP moves EC against Sonia's meeting with Shahi Imam
Excerpts of what Shahi Imam Bukhari said in a press conference in Delhi
# Nation faces danger from communal forces; we should ensure secular votes are not divided
# I hope the Congress will keep its promises for Muslims
# Spoke to Sonia at length on various issues. I declare that for 2014 polls we will support the Congress
# In Bengal the TMC has done work for Muslims. It can be hoped that Mamata Banerjee will protect Muslims
# One cannot even trust the BSP
# Cong promises CBI probe into Odisha mining, chitfund scam
# Samajwadi Party has even failed to protect the lives of Muslims
# SC had said that if the administration was responsible the situation wouldn't have worsened
# Samajwadi Party has never kept promises to the Muslims
# The country has to decide if it has to walk on the secular paths of Maulana Azad, Gandhi or vote for others
# Hindus and Muslims of India must vote for humanity
# We should make sure that the secular vote is not split
# Today India faces grave troubles, and there is a question mark on its future
# Like Yadavs have their party, Akalis have their party. If Muslims had one party we wouldn't have faced this situation
# I have complaints against Cong, but that doesn't mean we will vote for people who want to divide the country
# Support for Congress is an appeal not a fatwa
# Till Muslims are given the same rights, privileges as other citizens of the country our fight will continue
# We will also support Congress ally RJD in Bihar.