A conference held by leaders of various Muslim bodies on Saturday took an awry turn after Rashid Azim, the Mumbai president of the All India Milli Council, said the community should support the Congress in four out of six constituencies in Mumbai.
While Azim appealed to members of the community to support Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates Medha Patkar and Mayank Gandhi — contesting the Lok Sabha election from Mumbai North East and North West constituencies, respectively — he said for the lack of a better option, the community will have to vote for the Congress in other constituencies in the city.
His remarks were interrupted by a loud protest by Sayyed Nuruddin Aftab of the National Ulema Council who said, “Not a single Muslim will vote for the Congress. What have they done for the Muslims? No call should be made to ask for Muslim votes for the Congress.”
Members of the community, some victims of communal riots, others of similar serious offences, echoed Aftab’s cries, creating chaos and disorder in the conference room of the Mumbai Press Club at CST. “Votes should only be cast in favour of AAP. We should vote for Arvind Kejriwal,” the agitated members shouted.
Addressing the media and members of the community, Maulana Mehmood Dariyabadi of the All India Ulema Council appealed to the community to come forward in greater numbers to vote. Without naming any political party, he said,
“This is a strange election. We have to decide which direction we have to take the country in. Whoever is against facism, vote for that candidate,” he said.
Support for the AAP was endorsed by Uzam Naheed, president of the Iqra International Women’s Alliance, who said the community still struggled to get basic facilities like water and sanitation. “If this government has no power, why should we vote for the Congress?” she asked.
She urged Muslim voters not to disregard AAP as inexperienced, but to go through their manifesto. “In the last one week, I must have made 150 phone calls. Everyone is talking about AAP. Forget the Congress now. Most people are inclined towards voting for AAP.” she said.
Azim clarified, “There is no way we can let Narendra Modi and other communal forces come to power. We voted for the Congress because it was secular. But, when in power, it did nothing to curb communal forces. I asked people to vote for the Congress in four communities because there was no option. It is not binding on anybody. All we ask of our community members is to vote for a secular and honest candidate, irrespective of his or her religion.”