Indian Express

Madani to visit Varanasi to rally voters against Modi

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Madani with BJP leader Vinay Katiyar in a file photo. He was among the few clerics who had earlier supported  Modi when he refused to wear a skull cap. Archive Madani with BJP leader Vinay Katiyar in a file photo. He was among the few clerics who had earlier supported Modi when he refused to wear a skull cap. Archive

Jamiat-Ulama-I-Hind general secretary Mahmood Madani is planning to visit Varanasi in the next few days to consolidate “secular” votes against Narendra Modi. However, there is no decision yet on which party he would support against BJP’s PM candidate. Varanasi goes to polls on May 12.

“There was a demand from local people there (in Varanasi) that I should come and participate in consultations to devise a strategy for the upcoming elections. The dates of the visit are not final yet, neither is it possible to predict the outcome of these consultations at this stage. The only thing that is certain is that the decision, whatever it is, cannot be in favour of Modi,” Madani told The Sunday Express.

Incidentally, Madani is one of the rare Muslim clerics who came out in support of Modi’s refusal to wear a skull cap, saying there is nothing wrong with standing up against such “politics of symbolism popularised by pseudo-secular parties”.

In the past, he has said that Gujarat Muslims seem to have forgiven Modi but he should make efforts to reach out to the community across the country, which still has misgivings about him regarding the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Sources in the Jamiat said there is a lot of apprehension among Muslims in Varanasi that division of votes would make the battle for the constituency a cakewalk for Modi, which is why a religious leader is needed to bring people together against him.

Varanasi has approximately 3 lakh, or 16 per cent, Muslim voters concentrated in areas such as Madanpura, Lallapura and Teliabazar. While the principal contenders against Modi are Congress’s Ajay Rai and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, the SP and BSP have also fielded candidates in the constituency. There are a total of 77 candidates in the fray.

Madani said that while he stood by his support for Modi on his refusal to wear a skull cap, it did not mean his opposition to the Gujarat CM has been diluted. “Reality about Modi cannot be changed. It is our duty to defeat divisive forces in this country. My language may be different from others but that does not mean my ideas are too,” he said.

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