Of all the BSP leaders who have either been expelled or left in the last two decades after falling out with Mayawati, none enjoyed her trust for as long as Naseemuddin Siddiqui did. He remained one of her closest aides for most of his career, three decades so far, until the crushing defeat in the 2017 elections changed the equations between them.
Siddiqui, 57, entered politics in 1988 when he contested and lost an election to the Banda Municipal Board, as an independent. A resident of Banda’s Syorha village and the fifth of Qamaruddin Siddiqui’s eight sons, he joined the BSP in 1990. “Siddiqui had been a contractor for railways here before he joined the BSP. It was a time when we found it hard to bring one Muslim to our meetings, so anyone was welcome,” said a former BSP MP in Banda.
Siddiqui won the 1991 assembly election from Banda. He lost the seat in 1993, when the BSP was in alliance with the SP.
“After his defeat, Siddiqui left Banda and reached Lucknow. He started to make rounds of the Delhi office and got close to Behenji,” said the former BSP MP.
In 1995, when Mayawati became chief minister with the BJP’s support, she inducted Siddiqui as a minister. He was then nominated to the Legislative Council. He was made agriculture minister in the second BJP-BSP government in 1997. In 2002, he became minister for transport, environment and excise in the third BJP-BSP government.
He was also a co-accused with Mayawati in the Taj Corridor scandal that cropped up during this coalition government.
During the 2007 poll campaign, when the BSP experimented with new social engineering, he was projected as the party’s Muslim face. When the BSP formed its first majority government, Siddiqui was among one of the most influential ministers. He had charge of about a dozen departments including PWD and excise. In 2010, his wife Husna became a party MLC, joining him in the Upper House.
When the party fell out of power in 2012, Siddiqui became Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, a post with the rank of a cabinet minister. He was also made coordinator for Bundelkhand and central UP.
In 2014, his son Afzal was given a Lok Sabha ticket from Fatehpur; he lost. After the party failed to win any seat in 2014, Mayawati effected a rejig and gave Siddiqui charge of western UP and Lucknow divisions, while his son became in-charge of the party’s Muslim Bhaichara campaign in western UP.
Out of favour
In the run-up to the elections this year, Siddiqui campaigned in most seats, reaching out to Muslims including clerics, some of whom declared their support to the BSP.
However, the BSP performed poorly and was wiped out in western UP, its stronghold. Though Mayawati blamed EVMs, she also made it clear that she was disappointed with the campaign. At a meeting of party workers in April, she reportedly questioned Siddiqui’s approach. Leaders recalled that she said Muslims could not be wooed by visiting mosques or clerics.
Later, Mayawati stripped Siddiqui of all his responsibilities in the party organisation in UP and transferred him to Madhya Pradesh. BSP general secretary Satish Misra, who announced Siddiqui’s expulsion Wednesday, said Siddiqui did not go to MP as directed and “indulged in indiscipline” by remaining in Lucknow, Noida and Delhi.
Mayawati and Siddiqui
In his statement, Siddiqui said he has made “so many sacrifices for Mayawati and the BSP’s mission started by Kanshi Ram” that he could not count them. “I am giving just one example,” he said. “When Mayawati was contesting the assembly election from Bilsi of Badaun in 1996, she made me her election in-charge. My eldest child, my only daughter, fell seriously ill. My wife called me, crying, and asked me to come as our daughter was breathing her last. When I sought Mayawati’s permission to visit my daughter, she said the election is very tough. ‘You are my election agent. If you go, it will mean my defeat.’ In other words, for her personal benefit, Mayawati denied me permission to go to my daughter and get her treated. My daughter died without treatment and I did not even go for her last rites,” he said.
In the past, Mayawati had always defended Siddiqui. Before the 2012 elections, Mayawati removed several ministers after their indictment by the Lokayukta for corruption. But when the Lokayukta indicted Siddiqui and his wife, Mayawati did not act. When Siddiqui was targeted by the BJP last year for leading a BSP protest in which abusive slogans were raised about BJP leader Dayashankar Singh’s daughter and sister, Mayawati again defended him.
Things changed after the party won only 19 seats this year. After the new BJP government ordered an inquiry into the sale of sugar mills, Mayawati said that was done by the cabinet and Siddiqui’s department, stressing she had not passed any of those orders.
Siddiqui faces a number of inquiries. The UP Vigilance Establishment is probing him in connection with irregularities in the construction of memorials and parks during the BSP regime. He is also facing a Vigilance probe for disproportionate assets.
Though not many consider him a popular leader, he did nurture supporters in the party. Party sources say his ouster could further damage the BSP’s Muslim outreach.
Swami Prasad Maurya, former BSP leader and now a BJP minister, said Siddiqui has been made a scapegoat. “He is someone who followed whatever Mayawati instructed, faithfully. When Mayawati asked him to take money for giving tickets, he did that,” he said Wednesday.