Updated: June 15, 2022 8:29:16 am
The Welfare Party of India, whose Central Working Committee member Mohammad Javed is at the centre of the demolition proceedings in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, was launched in 2011 by a group of “like minded people for issue-based, welfare politics”.
Since the arrest of its 54-year-old leader Javed last week for his alleged involvement in the Prayagraj violence, which erupted following protests against derogatory references made to the Prophet by ex-BJP spokespersons, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, the Welfare Party has come out in his support and has issued several statement denying allegations being faced by him and calling the police and administration’s action against him “illegal”.
The party is headed by Qasim Rasool Ilyas, who is a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and is the father of ex-JNU student leader Umar Khalid, who has been in judicial custody as an alleged accused in the 2020 Northeast Delhi riots.
The party, according to the Election Commission of India (ECI) website, is listed among the “registered (unrecognised) parties”. As per the EC data, it contested two seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and got 23,035 votes. The party had then contested the Jangipur seat in West Bengal, where Ilyas got 1.32 per cent votes, and the Cooch Behar seat, where its candidate Dhananjoy Barman got 1,733 votes.
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In the 2014 polls, the party had fielded its candidate Monirul Islam against former President and Congress veteran late Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee, but Islam could just manage to get 9,476 votes.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ilyas, the party’s national president, said it was floated as the need for “alternative politics in the country was felt”. “Before launching the party, a group of civil society members conducted a tour of several states like Maharashtra, Karanataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, UP, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand. During the visits, we looked for like-minded people, who sought value-based politics, equitable distribution of resources, welfare state, inclusive democracy… We had received a good response and several prominent leaders and activists joined us,” he said.
Ilyas said the party was founded on May 18, 2011, in New Delhi and a couple of months later, the party was registered with the ECI. Regarding the party’s role in elections, he claimed, “Since its formation, we have participated in all elections, directly or indirectly. We have fought state, parliamentary, and local body polls. Though, we have not won any state or Lok Sabha seat, our party has done well in them.”
The party has, however, won a number of seats in local body polls in several states including Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal, he said.
Ilyas also said that in the recent UP Assembly polls, Javed was preparing to contest from the Chail constituency in Kaushambi district but did not following talks with the SP, which fielded its own candidate there.
“We had a tie-up with the SP and had supported them unilaterally in the Assembly polls. We also met SP chief Akhilesh Yadav several times,” said Ilyas.
The Chail constituency is situated around 15 km from Prayagraj’s Kareli area, where Javed’s demolished house is located.
A senior SP leader, however, said that there was no alliance between the SP and the Welfare Party. “There may have been meetings with them, but there was no alliance. We had several small allies for the recent polls, but they were all announced officially. If Welfare Party wasn’t, then it means they weren’t our allies. There may have been an understanding, but you can’t call that an alliance,” the leader said.
Days after Ilyas met Akhilesh in August 2021, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, while addressing the BJP’s Samajik Pratinidhi Sammelan, said, “Opposition parties can go to any extent. You must have seen who recently came to meet a party: Umar Khalid’s father, who says Bharat tere tukde honge.”
SP national spokesperson Rajendra Choudhary then said, “He (Adityanath) is raising such issues to polarise the upcoming elections on communal lines. Everybody knows that as elections near, the BJP tries to polarise the society.” Choudhary also said he was not aware of a meeting between Akhilesh and Ilyas. “The SP is a socialist and democratic party. Any person and organisation is free to meet and extend its support,” he said.
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