In its campaign to woo Muslims, the BSP has presented more than a dozen clerics to vouch for it before the community. They are taking part in the BSP’s campaign to reach out to Muslims in most seats in western and central UP, while a religious teacher from a Lucknow-based seminary too has offered his support.
Muslim clerics are seen as influential enough to sway the community’s vote, who account for nearly 18 per cent of UP. It is a constituency the BSP hasn’t tapped as well as it would have liked in the past, with Muslims wary particularly after the BSP’s previous alliances with BJP. In 2014, the BSP failed to get an endorsement by Jama Masjid’s shahi imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, because it did not meet his demand for a clarification about future alliances. The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, has had a long-standing understanding with clerics, including Bukhari, and Maulana Arshad Madni of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.
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This time, the BSP’s campaign led by party general secretary Naseemuddin Siddiqui has involved a number of maulanas. Many of them have been constantly taking part in BSP public meetings and delivering speeches. Besides, the BSP has given tickets to 97 Muslims.
Maulana Qari Shafiq, 42, who has delivered speeches at nearly two dozen BSP meetings in and around Lucknow, said he is among nearly half-a-dozen clerics openly supporting the BSP’s campaign led by Siddiqui. “The first thing about BSP rule is that we feel safe and secure. There have been so many communal riots under the SP government… BSP governments had also worked for development of Muslims – it provided grants to 100 madrasas last time, established India’s first Urdu, Arabic and Farsi university,” he said.
Maulana Faryad Hussain, 43, president of Bareilly-based Sunni Ulama Council, has been taking part in BSP activities in Bareilly and Moradabad. He said a number of clerics are working with him in these areas. “I have been associated with the party for many years. All parties talk about Muslims but none of them does anything. The BSP has not done much for Muslims either, but its regimes remain free of riots. We are supporting the party for peace,” he said.
Imran Hasan Siddiqui, president of Al Imam Welfare Association, met Siddiqui Sunday and offered his support. He said all imams with his organisation will spread awareness about the SP government’s failure to fulfil promises like reservation. “I had tried to contact Akhilesh Yadav several times. We want implementation of Supreme Court order that imams should be paid salary through wakf boards but that has not happened. Wakf properties are not being maintained well. We discussed these issues and thought of supporting BSP,” he said. He was at a BSP public meeting in a Muslim-dominated locality in Lucknow last month.
Hafiz Abdul Gaffar Jalalabadi, part of a BSP-backed campaign to garner support from Muslim clerics, said they have met most clerics in west UP as well as central UP and hope to get their support. “We are done with 70 per cent of this work,” said Jalalabadi, who runs a madrasa in Shamli district.
Maulana Salman Nadwi, dean of information and preaching at Lucknow-based Dar-ul-Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, has offered his moral support to the BSP. “I tried to stitch an alliance of parties but that failed. So I have given my support to the BSP. The party comes from a movement that talked of uplift of Dalits and Muslims. Kanshi Ram [spoke] about the need for Dalit-Musilm unity. Although Mayawati made a wrong decision in forming a coalition with BJP, we cannot forget the movement that is behind the party,” he said.
Siddiqui has twice visited the Dar-ul-Uloom. On Monday, Siddiqui, accompanied by about half-a-dozen clerics, met Lucknow-based Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad Naqvi, seeking his support. Naqvi, however, has not committed himself, sources said.