Indian Express

In Varanasi, Modi gets unlikely support from Shias

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Religious acrimony between Sunni weavers and Shias will tilt the scale in favour of Modi. (IE) Religious acrimony between Sunni weavers and Shias will tilt the scale in favour of Modi. (IE)

By- FAISAL FAREED

Despite the clarion call by Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad to defeat the Congress and the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi is surprisingly garnering support from over 35,000-strong Shia community in Varanasi.

Excited by the response, the BJP also asked its minority cell to woo the Shia Muslims. Varanasi has nearly three lakh Muslims, most of whom are weavers. Also, the Gujarat riots have taken a back seat with local issues gaining prominence.

“There is no doubt that Shia Muslims in Varanasi are supporting Modi. The support will come mainly from Dosipura, which is a Shia-dominated area,” Maulana Mohammad Aqeel, Imam-e-Juma Dara Nagar Masjid in Varanasi told The Indian Express.

He also reminded that in 2009, BJP’s M M Joshi victory margin was only 17,000.Dosipura includes as many as three to four localities, all dominated by Shias whose number is around 15,000-20,000. Religious acrimony between Sunni weavers and Shias will tilt the scale in favour of Modi.

“Shias are supporting BJP because of local issues. Muslims from the Sunni sect oppose our Taziya procession and Azadari during Moharram in Dosipura. There is also a dispute over an Imambada land. BJP openly supports us and now we will support in return,” Maulana Aqeel said. Another Shia cleric, Baqar Balliavi, based in Varanasi also admitted that Shias will vote for Modi.

Another Shia cleric Baqar Balliavi based at Varanasi also admitted that Shias will vote for Modi. “No party supported Shias in their Azadari issues. BJP openly supported us so Shias will support Modi here,” Baqar stated. He is also a Pesh-e-Imam of Aurangabad Masjid, another prominent mosque of Shia Muslims in Varanasi, and also runs a religious school.

Shias are also concentrated in Madanpura, Dal Mandi, Badi Bazar locality. “A large section of Shias in these locality will also support BJP. It is surprising for others, but not for us. The proportion of Shia support can increase if other local clerics are mobilised,” Baqar added.

The BJP has asked its state general secretary (minority cell) Haider Abbas, who also hails from Varanasi to motivate Shia Muslims. “Local issues are affecting the polling in favour of BJ. But we are also placing larger issues like development before them,” said Abbas.

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