Anna Hazare on her side, Mamata Banerjee now seems to be eyeing the endorsement of Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari. She is the only leader to have replied to Bukhari’s letter to political parties and chief ministers on the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations.
For Mamata, the support of both Hazare and Bukhari, if she does get it, would come at a time when she has been positioning her party for a bigger national role. Bukhari has already welcomed her decision not to meet US ambassador Nancy Powell, reportedly in deference to Muslim sentiments.
In her letter February 19, the day Hazare announced his support to her, Mamata outlined the initiatives taken by her government for the welfare of Muslims. She also gave names of prominent Muslim officers in her government, including chairman of the public service and municipal service commissions and several other serving IAS officers. “I would like to say that our government has not just materialised almost all the recommendations of the (Sachar) Committee, it has in fact done maximum development work for minority communities in the state,” she wrote.
Bukhari told The Indian Express , “The present government has taken a lot of measures for welfare if Muslims and exhibited great commitment to secularism. She has invited me to Bengal; once we go there I will discuss things over with her. But I can say that if she is in a position to become PM it will be good for Muslims.” He said that if indeed deference to Muslim sentiments is the reason Mamata did not grant an appointment to Nancy Powell, “it is good”.
Mamata’s letter was discussed at a meeting of Muslim clerics in the Jama Masjid Saturday, where an 11-member committee was formed to decide which political party is “least harmful” for Muslims. Bukhari, whose ties with the Samjawadi Party are strained, hinted that in UP he might be inclined towards the BSP though the final call would be of the committee.