Bhiwandi: SP MLA Rais Shaikh resigns after differences with state leadership | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Bhiwandi: SP MLA Rais Shaikh resigns after differences with state leadership

ByJyoti Punwani
Apr 21, 2024 08:14 AM IST

Party sources said there was a visible rift over the last few months between Shaikh and Abu Asim Azmi, the Samajwadi Party’s Maharashtra chief, after the former started becoming popular in Bhiwandi due to his work

Mumbai: Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA from Bhiwandi East, resigned from his position on Saturday, citing concerns with the party’s state leadership.

Nagpur, Dec 20 (ANI): Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Shaikh and Abu Azmi holding a banner protest demanding reservation for the Muslim community during the last day of the Maharashtra assembly winter session, in Nagpur on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)
Nagpur, Dec 20 (ANI): Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Shaikh and Abu Azmi holding a banner protest demanding reservation for the Muslim community during the last day of the Maharashtra assembly winter session, in Nagpur on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

In a post on X, the 49-year-old said, “I have consistently brought forward crucial party organisational and expansion-related concerns to the state leadership of our party over the past year. Despite my persistent efforts, these matters are yet to be resolved. However, I am committed to discussing them exclusively within the party’s forums.”

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Party sources said there was a visible rift over the last few months between Shaikh and Abu Asim Azmi, the SP’s Maharashtra chief. “Rais Shaikh, rather than Azmi, was becoming the face of the Samajwadi Party in Mumbai and Bhiwandi,” said a party insider.

Shaikh started becoming popular in Muslim-dominated Bhiwandi even among non-Muslims after consistently raising the city’s concerns in the Maharashtra assembly, especially during the power loom crisis last year. In December 2023, the Maharashtra government set up a study group on the sector and made him a member.

As SP group leader in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and standing committee member, Shaikh was always being quoted in the media. His work as a municipal councillor had also previously received publicity, especially after a mural of Mirza Ghalib was unveiled in Nagpada in 2019. It was the first time the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC had honoured any Urdu poet in such a manner, highlighting Shaikh’s connections across party lines.

This was in contrast with the Shiv Sena’s long-standing acrimonious relationship with Azmi, under whose leadership the SP got a reputation as a Muslim party. Azmi’s trademark rhetoric was to appeal to Muslims emotionally, highlighting examples of discrimination against them. While Shaikh, too, raised issues concerning the community — for instance, he challenged the Maharashtra government’s law on monitoring inter-faith marriages in court — he has also taken up matters of discrimination against non-Muslims.

Azmi had been synonymous with the SP since he joined it after the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. Shaikh joined the party in 2012 and was elected councillor from Govandi. His growing political stature in the last few years is said to have riled the SP’s “Azamgarh lobby”, which is dominant in the party’s Maharashtra unit, according to a party source. Azmi hails from Azamgarh.

Former Congress Rajya Sabha MP and minister Husain Dalwai also left the Samajwadi Party in 1999 for the same reason. Dalwai had then said that the party was run as Azmi’s personal fiefdom, with his relatives calling the shots.

When contacted, Azmi said Shaikh resigned because he wanted Riyaz Pappu, in charge of the party in the M ward, removed so that he could have complete control of the party in Bhiwandi. “Earlier, at his insistence, I moved Riyaz from Bhiwandi to M ward. But Shaikh wanted him removed from there too.” Azmi said he would try to resolve the differences between the two.

Shaikh held a meeting with his supporters in Bhiwandi on Friday evening as a show of strength, where they vowed not to let him be removed from Bhiwandi.

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