The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, an influential Muslim organisation, has asked the community to shun the Congress and back the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, a move likely to worry the grand old party that is counting on minorities to stem anti-incumbency.
This is the first time since the Jamaat’s participation in elections in 2002 that it has come out so strongly against the Congress.
“Muslims now strongly feel they should reconsider their position regarding Congress,” Jamaat’s secretary general Maulana Nusrat Ali said after concluding internal discussions on a range of issues. “The formation of Aam Aadmi Party’s government in Delhi is generally being welcomed in the country. We consider these new trends as notable and reassuring.”
Founded in 1941 by Syed Abul Ala Maududi with the goal of spreading Islamic values, the Jamaat once shunned direct participation in elections, including voting -- a move emblematic of its complex relationship with democracy.
The Jamaat, like many Muslim organisations, was initially cagey in its support for the anti-corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare and Kejriwal, preferring to adopt a wait-and-watch policy.
But virtually endorsing AAP on Sunday, the Jamaat said the 15-month-old party had emerged as a new alternative.
“The feeling of the Muslim community is getting stronger that they should reconsider their position regarding Congress, which is neglecting them,” Ali said.
“We have to wait for the moment where AAP will be able to convince the larger Muslim community. The Jamaat’s political standing isn’t very strong, but it is the single religious organisation which can impact voting in north India,” said Sanjeer Alam, an assistant professor at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
The Jamaat has, in recent years, undergone an ideological shift towards democracy and pluralism, titling left. It has advocated socialist policies and is fiercely anti-American.