Sayed Ahmed Bukhari, the head of Jama Masjid, Delhi, has again drawn a political roadmap. He is now desperate to float a Muslim front to espouse the cause of the minority community, which he believes is subjected to injustice and discrimination in India. The success of Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) led by Badaruddin Ajmal in the Assembly elections, netting 10 seats for which Shahi Imam campaigned also, has encouraged him to think of an exclusive all India party for the Muslims.
With that objective, Shahi Imam convened a meeting in New Delhi on June 10 and invited among others AUDF president Badaruddin Ajmal, working president Hafeez Rashid Chowdhury and nine MLAs of the party. Ajmal was conspicuous by his absence. The meeting ended without any decision.
Sources indicated that Ajmal was under pressure from Congress High Command to skip the meeting. The message was conveyed to him through Mahmood Madani, president of All India Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and MP, who cautioned Ajmal if he attended Shahi Imam'ssponsored meet, he would face expulsion from Jamiat. Ajmal is also the chief of the Assam unit of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.
Mahmood Madani, however, has his own ground to jam Shahi Imam'spolitical juggernaut. When Madani did all the spadework to form People'sDemocratic Front of Uttar Pradesh with Shahi Imam as its chief patron, the latter spurned it, favouring brazenly a national level Muslim forum. According to observers, this clash of political and community has brought into sharp focus the battle for hegemony between Deobund Darul Uloom-Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Imam Bukhari. Ajmal and Madani are graduates from Deobund.
In maintaining distance from Shahi Imam, Ajmal has two things in mind. Despite 33 per cent Muslim population in Assam, time is not yet ripe for a religious minority front. Secondly, his multi crore perfume business with Middle East connections built under Congress patronage will be at stake if he antagonises Sonia Gandhi. Besides, in Assam Shahi Imam'sfatwa never works and Muslims continue to be the vote-bank of Congress.
Above all, Ajmal knows well politically too he risks doom once he joins hands with Shahi Imam. While floating AUDF, he made it clear that ?it will maintain secular credentials and will not work for a particular community.? 27 of the AUDF's74 candidates who contested at the hustings were non-Muslims and two of them won also. Keeping this in mind, Ajmal said in Guwahati, ?The AUDF will not be the national level political forum for religious minorities mooted by Shahi Imam?. AUDF general secretary, Ataur Rahman Majharbhuiya, MLA, was also unamiguous about his party'scommitment ?to look after the interests of all sections of society irrespective of religious divide.? This commitment, he added, would bar it from joining hands with any Muslim political organisation. This just have caused consternation in Shahi Imam'scamp.
Bukhari'sdiscomfiture has been a shot in the arm of Congress. A missive from the party high command to the Pradesh Congress Committee, according to a reliable source, advised the latter either to rein in AUDF or split it. The prospect of Congress winning the next Lok Sabha elections in the five Parliamentary constituencies of Dhubri, Barpeta, Mangaldoi, Nagaon and Karimganj looks bleak if the minorities decide to back AUDF.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee has, therefore, decided to resuscitate the almost defunct minority cell and start confidence building exercise with economic packages to win back the support to the minorities. Significantly, eleven-member delegation of minority ministers, MPs and MLA met Sonia Gandhi recently in Delhi and impressed upon her not ?to have any truck with AUDF? as they are confident of regaining the lost ground.
(The author can be contacted at Satsang Ashram Road, Silchar, Assam-788 007, e-mail: [email protected])