Qaumi Ekta Dal leader Mukhtar Ansari’s support to Congress candidate Ajay Rai was touted as a guarantee of the Muslim support. But it took the political acumen and electioneering experience of senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to achieve the desired result.
In his three-day stay here, Azad held extensive meetings with the members of the minority community and senior clerics, ensuring that Muslims get behind the party.
The 300,000-strong Muslim voters in Varanasi would play a crucial role in deciding the result in the temple city. When the support from the Ansari brothers did not help enough, the state unit of the party demanded a senior Muslim Congress leader to visit Varanasi.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister measured up to the task. He met Sheher Qazi Maulana Ghulam Yasin and Mufti-e-Banaras Abdul Batin Nomani — the senior most Muslim clerics in the city.
Azad also met Haji Mukhtar, leader of the weaver community. He convinced Mukhtar to support the Congress candidate, Ajay Rai, since the weaver community was reluctant to support the party. He also met local Muslims in the lanes of city. “Azad’s visit to Varanasi has been very fruitful for the Congress. Muslims, who were in a dilemma, have now pledged support to the Congress,” said a senior party leader in the city. Rai’s rival and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal has also been wooing the Muslims.
Now, the Congress is expected to send Raj Babbar to Varanasi in the hope that the pro-Muslim image of the actor-turned-politician would further help the party consolidate support among the minority community.
In 2009 general elections, Mukhtar Ansari, who was then a BSP candidate, got 1.85 lakh votes, majority of them Muslim votes. He lost to BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi by 17,211 votes.