UP ulema divided

The Lucknow and Azamgarh ulema councils are divided over direct participation in the Lok Sabha elections, reports M Hasan.
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Updated on Feb 26, 2009 11:58 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByM Hasan, Lucknow

The Lucknow and Azamgarh Ulema Councils in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are divided over the issue of direct participation in the Lok Sabha elections.

The Lucknow ulemas (Muslim clerics) have the view that the “Assam pattern” will not succeed in UP, while the Azamgarh council leaders are keen on contesting the polls on religious lines. They are even planning to field at least 10 candidates.

In assam, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal-led Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) emerged as a major political player in Assam in the last assembly elections and the party is now planning a nationwide presence.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board chief Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahli, who also heads the Lucknow Ulema Council, said, “Religion-based political party will prove counter-productive”, as it would strengthen the communal forces.

Rashid said the ground realities in Assam were different. First Assam is a border state and second, the AUDF thrived on the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants issue.

But Azamgarh Ulema Council member Maulana Tahir Madni told Hindustan Times that moves were afoot to bring in some caste-based smaller groups of eastern UP to form a joint front. Madni said the council was in touch with Maulana Ajmal who planned to field 20 candidates in UP.

But even before the clerics’ efforts could take a concrete shape, other Muslim parties like the Muslim Majlis and the Parcham Party of India (PPI) have raised the “no-Ulema-role-in politics” slogan in the state.

“The ulema have always divided the Muslim vote,” said Majlis president Prof Khan Atif. “The ulema’s meddling in the past failed to yield positive result,” PPI president Salim Peerzada said, adding, “We want a secular front.”

While Jamat-i-Islami president Mohammad Ahmad is leading a move to form an alliance with the AUDF, Khalid Rashid said the Jamat was always opposed to the formation of a political party. It had brought various factions together before the 2007 assembly elections, but the alliance fell apart before the poll.

Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad also floated the People’s Democratic Front (PDF) in 2006, but it had to be shelved in two months. “Even though the PDF had failed, efforts are again being made to provide a viable political alternative to the community,” Mohammad Ahmad said.

In fact, Muslims never responded to such formations in the past. After the 1992 Babri mosque demolition, the community had been largely doing tactical voting to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party. The trend is unlikely to change now.

Khalid Rashid said despite their share of 18 per cent in the state’s population, Muslims “need support of other communities”. There are nearly 120 assembly segments largely in western UP where Muslims account for around 20 per cent and play a balancing act with the help of other major communities.

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