February 5, 2021 1:14:49 am
The West Bengal unit of the Congress has sought permission from the party’s central leadership for formally starting alliance talks with Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s newly launched outfit Indian Secular Front (ISF), saying that the “popular” 34-year-old cleric’s support would prove to be a “game-changer” for the Left-Congress alliance in the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.
In a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party leader and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Abdul Mannan, wrote that the ISF could prove detrimental to all “secular parties” as the newly launched outfit would target the votes of Muslims, Dalits, tribals and all the underprivileged sections of the society.
Pointing out that the minority votes have shifted away from the party — as evident from the 2019 Lok Sabha election when the Congress lost in every Muslim-dominated Assembly segments in Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur districts – Mannan wrote: “The addition of the ISF in the Left-Congress alliance may prove to be a game-changer in the Assembly elections… I have started unofficial dialogue with the ISF and state Congress president (Adhir Chowdhury) visited Siddiqui’s place recently. He discussed the issue with me and is seeking my help because of my personal relationship with Pirzada Siddiqui’s family.”
Mannan also wrote that CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim has also started discussions with Siddiqui, he said. “He (Siddiqui) is popular for his oratory skills among Muslims, as well as Dalits and tribals… Lakhs of people gather at his meetings in minority, tribal and Dalit areas,” Mannan wrote, pointing out that Bengali-speaking Muslims are traditional vote-bank of the Congress.
On January 21, Siddiqui had floated his political outfit, saying that he wished to be the kingmaker after the polls. Siddiqui, who had earlier met AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, had rejected the charge that he was entering the electoral politics to cut into ruling TMC’s votes, and thereby helping the BJP.
Meanwhile, speaking to media-persons on Thursday, Siddiqui welcomed the Congress’s move for tie-up, saying: “It is a positive development. But it is too early for us to comment on the issue. Let us see how things unfold.”
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