He is not afraid of wearing his religion on his sleeves,and revels in controversy. Known for his fiery speeches and short temper,this election Haji Yaqoob Qureshi of Meerut seems to have bitten more than he can chew. Whenever Yaqoob is in fray,the issue of alleged illegal slaughter of animals is raked up to polarise non-Muslim votes,but he defends it on grounds that the profession is his constitutional right.
After gifting his Meerut city seat to brother Dr Yousuf Qureshi,who is contesting as a Congress candidate,Yaqoob shifted to Sardhana as RLD nominee.
A two-term MLA and a former minister,the class IX passout first hit the headlines by announcing a reward of Rs 51 crore on a Danish cartoonist for making a caricature of Prophet Mohammad. Last year,he slapped a constable on duty when he tried to divert his cavalcade from the route of a procession.
Meerut had witnessed the first spark of mutiny in 1857 when sepoys refused to use the animal fat-laced cartridges. Now,illegal animal slaughter houses act as ready made fodder to ignite passions.
Supreme Court advocate Ajay Aggrawal,who is fighting a case against the illegal slaughter houses,stated that at least ten illegal meat factories are operating in Meerut. There is a provision of slaughtering only 350 animals per day while actually 4,500-5,000 animals are slaughtered daily. After an inspection by a team from National Human Rights Commission on July 15, 2009,some furnaces were demolished, said Aggrawal.
Yaqoob owns a major share in the meat export business and slaughter houses and furnaces to extracts animal fat are,allegedly,run under his patronage. Such furnaces are reportedly functional in the bylanes of Meerut,adding to the increased pollution level.
Yes,I do have meat export business but the slaughter house is owned by the municipality. This issue is raised by the BJP only to polarise the votes. Meerut has a sizable meat-eating population. It is necessary and we conduct the business within the legal framework, said Yaqoob.
Blaming the BJP for the slaughter house issue,Yaqoob said even saffron party leaders own slaughter houses. ”I have all the papers,but the BJP people are against my kamela (slaughter house), he added.
Though there was an announcement by the state government to set up a modern slaughter house at a cost of Rs 100 crore in Meerut with the Centres assistance,it never came up.
Yaqoob began his political journey in 1995 after he was elected as the towns deputy mayor. In 1999,he also unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections on a BSP ticket.
Unfazed by the attacks from opposition,Yaqoob considers himself a mass leader. I fulfill all the promises made to my people. That is the only the reason I get their support, he said. I started as an Independent candidate and won on a BSP ticket in 2002. The BSP had little role in my victory as its Dalit vote bank did not vote for me. I get Muslim and other secular voters, said Yaqoob.
Later,he switched to Samajwadi Party when Mulayam Singh Yadav was the chief minister. He was rewarded with a ministerial berth. However,he again parted ways and contested the 2007 election,experimenting on his UP United Democratic Front (UDF). UDF was my baby but some political leaders sabotaged it,and I returned to the BSP. For me,issues concerning Muslims are priority. When I dared to talk to Mayawati,they expelled me attributing me to some remarks, he said.
Denying charges of nepotism as his brother,Yousuf, is contesting this time from his seat on a Congress ticket,Yaqood said: He was in Congress since the beginning. It is a coincidence that RLD and Congress have forged an alliance. Meerut was my seat which I wrested from three- term MLA and former minister Luxmi Kant Bajpayee.
Unlike his brother who has two contest against two Muslim nominees BSPs Saleem Ansari and SPs Rafeeq Ansari Yaqoob may be on a strong footing at Sardhana,as he is the lone Muslim candidate. Moreover,RLDs help in form of Jat vote can come handy for Yaqoob but not for Yousuf.
Yaqoob is now vouching for RLD general secretary Jayant Choudhary to be next chief minister. We will form the government with Congress support and blessings. There may be other people in the alliance but Jayant will be the CM, said Yaqoob. When reminded that RLD is just contesting 47 seats,he quipped: Many people do not know that Jayant and Rahul share a very close relationship. Besides, anything is possible in politics, he said.