Though the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, has openly appealed to Muslims to support the Congress in the April 10 election, a reality check at ground zero indicates the community may not follow him blindly.
In stark contrast, Mufti M Mukarram Ahmed, the influential Imam of Masjid Fatehpuri, in his speech after the Jumma prayers on Friday appealed to ‘Hindustani voters’ to “choose a candidate who will solve the area’s problems”, be it from any party or even independent.
Bukhari’s announcement also came on Friday.
“I am a religious leader so I have not taken any name. Each area has different issues and it is not necessary that a single party can provide all solutions. So it can be different party candidates in different areas,” the Imam of Masjid Fatehpuri said.
Zoya Hasan, a political scientist and a professor of political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “He (Imam Bukhari) should not have announced and (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi too should not have encouraged such a thing. But this is applicable to all parties. Even Hindu politicians bring in religious leaders. Fundamentalism and communalism has no place in a secular democracy.”
Even as Bukhari’s brother Yahiya Bukhari criticised him for supporting the Congress, which, he claimed, “has done nothing for the Muslims”, scores of other Muslims HT spoke to did not support the Jama Masjid Imam’s outlook.
Of the seven Parliamentary seats, at least three constituencies — Northeast, East and Chandni Chowk — in Delhi have a sizeable population of Muslims. Bukhari had also said “voting for the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would be a waste” but Muslims from these areas claim his statement will make very little impact.
Matia Mahal resident Atiq Siddiqui, editor of An-Yaum (Today), an Urdu daily, said: “Muslims today are generally anti-Congress and are likely to vote where they find a solid substitute. In the walled city and Okhla area, it is clear that Muslims are favouring the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In Northeast Delhi, especially in Seelampur, they are inclined towards the BSP.”
With 21.39% Muslim voters, the Northeast parliamentary constituency has the largest number of electors from the community in Delhi. Maulana Nafees Ahmad Farukhi of New Seemapuri in Northeast Delhi said: “We have already tried the Congress several times but not anymore. Muslims will never support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in my opinion the AAP has emerged as an option for us.”
Abdul Rehman Abid, a resident of Okhla, echoed the same views. “My feeling is Muslims vote will get divided between AAP and BSP as there is an anti-Congress wave and Muslims will never vote for BJP.”