Top Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said on Tuesday that while Muslims are “afraid” of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, party president Rajnath Singh has the acceptability of former prime minister A B Vajpayee.
“Baat jab Vajpayee ya Rajnath ki ho, to ye theek lagtey hain. Modi se Mussalmano ko dar lagta hai, Rajnath se nahi. (When you talk about Vajpayee or Rajnath, each one is acceptable. Muslims are afraid of Modi, not of Rajnath),” said Jawwad, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and general secretary of Majlis-e-Ulema-Hind.
His statement came a day after Singh, the BJP’s candidate from Lucknow, toured the old city, meeting several Muslim clerics including Jawwad, Kalbe Sadiq, Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli, Hameedul Hasan and Yasoob Abbas.
“It is true that Muslims are afraid of Narendra Modi, but not of Rajnath Singh. If Rajnath was the choice (for PM’s post), it would have been better… I am not endorsing the BJP, but Rajnath is a better choice compared to Modi,” Jawwad told The Indian Express.
Some days back, Jawwad had given a call for defeating the Congress over alleged encroachment of land near the Jor Bagh karbala in Delhi. “Yes, the Congress has to be defeated and Muslims should not vote for it. For the remaining, Muslims are free to exercise their franchise,” he said.
Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli described Singh as a “family friend”. “We have family relations with Rajnath. He used to come during the days of our father,” he said.
“Other leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee are scheduled to meet Jawwad… It is not a call for support but a true depiction of preference for Rajnath over Modi,” said Shameel Shamsi, president of Hussaini Tigers and a close aide of Jawwad.
While the Congress has fielded Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the AAP candidate is Javed Jaaferi, who is a Shia. There are over four lakh Muslims in the city.
During his term as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Singh is known to have reached out to the community by holding special meetings. He has now revived his contacts, with the support of sitting Lucknow MP Lalji Tandon and Mayor Dinesh Sharma, who share a good rapport with the Muslim community. Both Tandon and Sharma accompanied Singh during his visit to the old city on Monday.
Kiran Bedi tried to establish her credentials as a secular, pro-women candidate.