Indira Tiwari, Trinamool Congress candidate from Varanasi, has been associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi case in the Supreme Court in her capacity as general secretary of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, a post she resigned in February this year.
Gearing up now to face Narendra Modi and possibly Arvind Kejriwal in the prestigious seat, she says about Modi that neither she nor her party believes in “untouchability”. “It is a democracy after all,” she tells The Indian Express at the Trinamool office in Delhi.
Asked whether her party will be open to supporting Modi post polls, she replies, “It is a hypothetical question.”
She is proud of her association with the Hindu Mahasabha, emphasising the organisation was set up by the likes of Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai as a social outfit, not a religious one. “I worked there from 2006 to February this year, when I resigned after Trinamool approached me to fight the elections. I was the national general secretary. I want to make it clear that it is the Hindu Mahasabha that is a respondent in the Ram Janmabhoomi case. The BJP is taking the country for a ride by making it look like they are a party. The courts have accepted that the land belongs to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. As an office bearer I was closely associated with that case,” she says.
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Granddaughter of former Congress leader Kamalapati Tripathi, Indira flaunts her Varanasi roots. She says it is her city, her home where she grew up, where all “sinners”, including Modi are welcome to take a dip in the holy Ganges. “Modi’s sins will be washed away. Kejriwal is welcome, too. But I only want to ask the Aam Aadmi Party why they did a referendum in Delhi when they had to form the government but did not take people’s opinion when they resigned.”
Her political career started with the Congress’s students’ wing, NSUI, but she left for the Hindu Mahasabha as the Congres started losing its clout in UP. But she hopes her stint in student politics will hold her in good stead when she fights the high-profile election on May 12.
One question she faces is whether Muslims, who form such a large support base for Trinamool in West Bengal, will vote for her given her Mahasabha roots.
“I don’t look at the electorate as Hindu or Muslim, but it is true that when I fought Banaras Hindu University students’ elections for NSUI in 1982, I got massive support from Muslims in areas such as Madanpura, Lallapura, Teliabajar,” she says. “I don’t believe in discriminatory politics. I had come out in support of Saddam Hussein during the run-up to the Iraq war. Even in the Hindu Mahasabha, my role had been to initiate a liberal dialogue with people across religions.”