While Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam Bukhari is likely to announce his support for the Congress on Friday, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stuck to its guns, claiming that the situation has changed radically since the Delhi Assembly elections and that Muslims were now rooting for the AAP.
On Tuesday, a delegation of Muslims leaders led by Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence.
After a meeting that lasted 45 minutes, Shahi Imam Bukhari said issues such as, “the arrest of Muslim youths in terror cases, implementation of Sachar Committee and Ranganath Misra Commission recommendations and Anti-Communal Violence Bill” were discussed.
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Sources close to Bukhari said the decision to support the Congress has been finalised and an announcement is likely on Friday.
While an endorsement from Bukhari can bolster the Congress’s campaign in the upcoming elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh, the AAP believes that by directly contesting against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal can change equations.
Four of the eight seats that the Congress managed to win in the Delhi Assembly elections came from areas where the Muslim population was significant.
“The tide has changed. Muslims no longer view Congress as the natural alternative to vote in order to keep communal forces at bay. During the Assembly elections, we received 15-20% of the Muslim vote in Delhi. In the Lok Sabha elections, we expect this to reach 80%,” Irfanullah Khan, leader and the president of AAP’s Jamia Nagar coordination committee, said.
Fearing this loss from their traditional vote bank, the Delhi unit of the Congress had proposed the fielding of at least one Muslim candidate from Delhi for the Lok Sabha elections.
But with each of the seven sitting MPs being renominated by the party, senior Congress leaders said that they expect the endorsement from the influential Muslim cleric to further consolidate their vote bank.
“The Congress will get the Muslim votes in Delhi. Bukhari’s endorsement of the Congress party will help us win votes not just in Delhi but elsewhere as well,” senior Congress leader Mateen Ahmed said.