“A message of brotherhood:” Odisha's first Muslim woman MLA on her poll victory from Barbati-Cuttack seat | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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“A message of brotherhood:” Odisha's first Muslim woman MLA on her poll victory from Barbati-Cuttack seat

PTI |
Jun 10, 2024 05:21 PM IST

Odisha's first Muslim woman MLA Sofia Firdous terms her victory a message of brotherhood. Says this proves that religion has no place on matters of development.

Studied in a Missionary school and an alumnus of IIM Bangalore, Sofia Firdous who scripted history by becoming the first Muslim woman MLA of Odisha said her victory has sent a message of brotherhood to the entire country.

Sofia Firdous (x/@sofiafirdous1)
Sofia Firdous (x/@sofiafirdous1)

Firdous, who also takes part in Durga Puja, said she was born in a Muslim family but was raised among the people of Cuttack, who are mostly Hindus.

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Also read: Meet Sofia Firdous, first Muslim woman to win assembly election in Odisha

But first, she is a "proud Odia", she asserted.

Congress candidate Firdous won the Barabati-Cuttack Assembly seat defeating her nearest candidate Purna Chandra Mahapatra of the BJP by 8,001 votes.

Speaking to PTI, Firdous said the people of Cuttack believe in "brotherhood" and they proved that religion has no place when the matter is about development.

"Religion for me is nothing other than a medium of worship to the Supreme Power, the Unseen Force. I believe spirituality is essential for all -- Hindus, Muslims, Christians and any other community. It (spirituality) keeps oneself united and gives strength," she said.

The 32-year-old MLA said she has close friends among Hindus who never see her as different from them.

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"In my childhood, I offered prayer in school, participated in Durga Puja in my locality, and enjoyed all the festivals of different religions as Cuttack in the city of brotherhood," said Firdous, an engineering graduate.

On becoming the first Muslim woman MLA of Odisha, Firdous said, "First of all, I am a proud Odia and Indian. People have voted for me as I am a daughter of Cuttack. It is a coincidence that I am Muslim and it had not happened before.”

Over 140 women have been elected to the Odisha assembly in nearly 90 years of its history, but there was no Muslim among them.

"The tag of being the first Muslim woman MLA of Odisha came automatically. Thank God for all that. I am happy," she said.

Firdous, who also heads a real-estate firm set up by her father, said her ideal politician is Nandini Satpathy who was the chief minister of a Congress government in Odisha between 1972 and 1976.

Also read: After poll debacle, Pandian says quitting active politics

Asked why she joined politics despite her engineering and management background, Firdous said she was made for politics as her father Mohammed Moquim is a "popular Congress leader" whose entanglement in a legal case forced her to enter this field "so early".

Her father Mohammed Moquim was elected from the same Assembly seat in the 2019 election. He could not contest in the 2024 polls after being convicted in the Odisha Rural Housing and Development Corporation Limited (ORHDC) loan irregularities case.

"As my father was entangled in a legal case and he could not fight elections this time, I had to enter into electoral politics. I had never thought to come to politics so early. I contested the 2024 elections in order to retain my father’s legacy and complete his work in the Barabati-Cuttack assembly segment," she said.

The young Congress leader said she had campaigned for her father in the 2019 elections and also looked after his poll management previously.

“The people of my constituency have elected me keeping a view on my father’s work during the last five years and my profile. They trusted their daughter and I will stand by them in all situations,” Firdous said.

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Asked about her father’s conviction ahead of the elections, Firdous said, “My father has been targeted for political reasons. The people of Odisha have shown the BJD government its place in this election.”

BJD, which has been in power in the state for 24 years, was defeated by the BJP in the elections. In the constituency of Firdous, the BJD came third after Congress and BJP.

The Congress had raised its strong voice over many issues inside the Assembly even when it had just nine MLAs, said Firdous, an engineering graduate and an alumnus of IIM Bangalore.

"Now, the party has 14 MLAs while the principal opposition party BJD has 51 in the 147-member House. As the opposition has become very strong now, it will play a major role," she stated.

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