At least three senior Congress leaders met influential cleric Abbas Siddiqui for a pre-poll alliance since his meeting with Asaduddin Owaisi earlier this month as political parties are vying for the state’s 30 per cent Muslim votes.
Congress sources claimed that their senior leader Abdul Mannan had a fruitful meeting on Friday (January 8) with Siddiqui, one of the pirzadas (descendant of a pir) of the Furfura Sharif, a revered shrine for the state’s Muslims.
During the discussions, Siddiqui reportedly had set some preconditions for the alliance. Siddiqui’s demands were reportedly conveyed to the Congress high command for taking a call.
The parleys gave rise to the possibility of a grand third front of CPI (M), Congress and a Siddiqui-led platform of which Owaisi’s the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) and other smaller parties such as Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) are likely to be a part.
The Congress and the CPI (M) have already announced their alliance and now the focus is on Siddiqui.
Parties engaged in the parleys, however, are keeping their strategy closely guarded.
When contacted Mannan refused to talk about his parleys he had with Siddiqui saying he is busy.
A couple of days after Mannan’s visit, Congress MP Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury and his son Isha Khan Choudhury, who is also a Congredss MLA, too called on the cleric.
Isha Khan and Siddiqui described their visit as a “courtesy meeting” and “apolitical.”
Siddiqui, however, kept the speculation about a larger anti-TMC and anti-BJP front alive saying he was in talks with the CPI (M), the Congress and other smaller parties and social organisations of Adivasis, Dalits and Matuas for a broad alliance.
“It will be a grand alliance against social injustice. We will not focus only on Muslims but also other deprived communities,” he said adding his own party will be launched on January 21.
Owaisi had already announced that his party would work in Bengal according to the advice and plan of Siddiqui.
Siddiqui, a bitter critic of Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in the state, has now emerged as an important political figure in the quest for Mulsim votes in the state.
Even the CPI (M) state committee secretary Surya Kanta Mishra told newsmen recently that his party did not consider Siddiqui as a communal leader.
“He (Siddiqui ) does not talks about any particular community. He speaks about all downtrodden people,” Mishra said.
The state’s around 30 per cent Muslim votes are crucial as they can influence about 125, out of 294, assembly seats.
Even the BJP is trying to bring into its fold Muslims by organising recruitment drive in minority-dominated areas. The party’s state Minority Morcha president Ali Hossain claimed that over 10 lakh people from the minority community have joined the party since September last year when it had launched the recruitment drive with a target of enrolling 20 lakh Muslims by 2020.
“In BJP ‘Siraj and Jai Shri Ram’ find equal place,” BJP’s Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed recently at a public meeting after Siraj Khan, a former TMC Zilla Parishad member of Midnapore joined the BJP along with his supporters.
Since the 2011 assembly elections when the TMC defeated the CPI (M)-led Left Front, the state’s Muslim community has been voting for the TMC.
A split in the TMC’s Muslim vote base will severely dent its poll prospects in the ensuing elections.
Several Muslim socio-religious organisations such as the West Bengal Imam Association and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind have launched a counter campaign to prevent the split as they feel the division of Muslim votes will benefit the BJP.