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POLITICS OF RELIGION

MUSLIM POLITICS is on the boil in UP. With the ulema (clerics) taking charge of the community, the trading of Muslim votes has commenced. Not only political parties, but also clerics are vying with one another for the community?s vote. Since politics is no longer taboo for the Ulema, they are cleverly trying to mix religion with politics to retain their stranglehold on the community. Encouraged by the ?Ajmal phenomenon?, the UP clerics have been trying to replicate the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) experiment.

india Updated: May 21, 2006 00:01 IST
M Hasan

The ulema are cleverly trying to mix religion with politics to retain their stranglehold on the community. The formation of the People’s Democratic Front is one such example.

MUSLIM POLITICS is on the boil in UP. With the ulema (clerics) taking charge of the community, the trading of Muslim votes has commenced. Not only political parties, but also clerics are vying with one another for the community’s vote.

Since politics is no longer taboo for the Ulema, they are cleverly trying to mix religion with politics to retain their stranglehold on the community. Encouraged by the “Ajmal phenomenon”, the UP clerics have been trying to replicate the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) experiment.

Interestingly, the community is simply a bystander in the unfolding political drama. “The clerics are fighting for leadership in ‘Saqifa style’ (leadership tussle after the death of Prophet Mohammad),” a leader commented sarcastically.

The AUDF, headed by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, exploited Muslim sentiments in Assam following the Congress failure to retain the contentious Illegal Migrants (Determination of Tribunals) Act, 1983, which was struck down by the Supreme Court as “ultra vires” of the Constitution.

Accusing the Congress of failing to protect the interests of the community, the AUDF won ten seats. Ajmal, too, was not pulling on well with the Congress for inexplicable reasons.

It is now action replay in UP where prominent Shia leader and newly constituted People’s Democratic Front (PDF) chairman Maulana Kalbe Jawad had of late crossed swords with the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government. With the help of some so-called Muslim organizations, Jawad turned the tables on Delhi Jama Masjid Imam Ahmad Bukhari by taking the lead in announcing the front. Bukhari had been working on the project for quite some time. Now, both are at loggerheads and have been making efforts in their own way to “serve the community”.  Bukhari, known for hobnobbing with political parties in the past, has been trying to project himself as the sole arbitrator of Muslims in the state.

This has not gone down well with UP leaders.

“They don’t want UP issues to be settled in Delhi Jama Masjid,” Muslim Forum chief Nihaluddin Ahmad put it.  The motives of all the ulema are suspect in the eyes of common Muslims. While clerics have been trying to win over support, people have been making efforts to figure out which political party is behind each cleric.  “Who is working for whom?” is the question doing the rounds in the community.

Though quite popular, Jawad, by plunging into direct politics, has sparked off a debate among the Shia ulema. They are yet to forget the failed experience of Maulana Agha Roohi Abaqati, who had shocked the Shia community by walking into the lap of the BJP in the 1990s.  Shias are now once again watching the development with bated breath. The All India Shia Personal Law Board, headed by Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar, was also constituted with a political gameplan in mind.     

But, UP is certainly not Assam. The ground realities are vastly different. While out of 35 Muslim-dominated constituencies, Assam Muslims in ten segments were attracted towards “Ajmal phenomenon”, in UP, the PDF is having to bear survival pangs since the day of its inception.

For the ruling Samajwadi Party, which claims to be the custodian of Muslim votes, the formation of PDF, or any other similar outfit, is certainly not good news. Thus, from day one moves were afoot to scuttle the plan. Forces close to the ruling establishment within the community have been working overtime to kill the newborn baby in the cradle. Bukhari did not like the launch of front, as he could not take credit for the unity move. Warring forces were active last week to pull down each other in the name of “unity”.

Jawad is not acceptable to his rivals in UP. Waqf Minister Shakir Ali has also challenged his leadership.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has also split vertically. While JUH president Arshad Madni is close to the Congress, general secretary Mahmood Madni has become a Rajya Sabha member with the help of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Party.  Not just the PDF, Minister for Haj and Minorities Welfare Haji Yaqoob Qureshi also came out with the Muslim Morcha and organised a rally in Delhi on May 14. VP Singh’s Jan Morcha has been trying to fish in troubled waters by hailing Jawad’s move.

With no political experience, Jawad has landed himself in a predicament. Rivals both inside and outside the Shia community have ganged up on him in a bid to pull the rug from under his feet.

In the process, he has also burnt bridges with the SP leadership in the State. 

Though the Muslims has voted en block, it has never been swayed by religious sentiments.  The community has also rejected various “leagues” in elections.