Setback for Owaisi: Influential Muslim group opposes his Bengal poll plan

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which has a stronghold among Muslims in West Bengal, says it won’t allow 'divisive politics' and will launch a state-wide movement to prevent any attempt to divide minority votes on communal lines during the assembly polls

Asaduddin Owaisi
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 Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which has a stronghold among Muslims in West Bengal, on Monday (January 4) said it would launch a state-wide movement to prevent any attempt to divide minority votes on communal lines during the upcoming assembly polls.

“We will put up resistance against this divisive communal force in every inch of the land,” said Siddiqullah Chowdhury, president of the state unit of Jamiat, which is a partner in Mamata government.

Chowdhury was reacting to All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s attempt to forge a political tie-up with young Muslim cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif in Bengal.

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Owaisi made a hush-hush visit to Bengal on Sunday and drove down to Furfura Sharif, an important site of pilgrimage for Muslims in Bengal, located at Jangipara in Hooghly, some 40 km north of Kolkata. There he met Siddiqui, a bitter critic of the Trinamool Congress government.

Also read: DMK stumbles in attempt to tap Owaisi’s support, angers allies

The young cleric is a scion of Siddiqui family, the custodian of Furfura Sharif shrine, which houses a mazaar (mausoleum) of Pir Abu Bakr Siddiqui and a mosque built in 1375.

After about a two-hour meeting, Owaisi declared that in the ensuing assembly elections this year, his party would make a foray into Bengal under the leadership of Abbasuddin Siddiqui, a pirzada, meaning a descendent of a pir.

“We will be led by Abbas Siddiqui in Bengal. We will work according to his advice and plan,” Owaisi said after the meeting.

The two, however, did not reveal as to whether Siddiqui would be the face of AIMIM in the state or the pirzada would float a party of his own, as he had indicated in the past that he would have an electoral alliance with the Owaisi’s outfit.

Also read: CBI gets proactive in Bengal ahead of polls, raids TMC leader

Sources said the second option was more likely. Siddiqui has pockets of influence in Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts, while the AIMIM has some organisational bases in Muslim-dominated districts of North Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad.

The state’s 30 per cent Muslim votes are crucial as they can influence about 125 out of 294 assembly seats.

Most of the influential Muslim leaders of the state did not take the Owaisi- Siddiqui tie-up very kindly, dubbing it as an attempt to “vitiate” communal harmony in the state.

The Jamiat leader, who is also a senior minister in the TMC government, said Owaisi and Siddiqui were hand in glove with the BJP.  He alleged that Siddiqui was close to BJP leader Mukul Roy, while Owaisi’s link with the BJP was an open secret.

“The people of Bengal will not subscribe to the communal agenda of either the BJP or the Owaisi-Siddiqui duo,” Chowdhury told The Federal.

He said Muslim religious organisations in the state had been relentlessly working to protect unity and harmony among various communities and any attempt to disrupt it would not be acceptable. Chowdhury was referring to awareness drives by imams and ulemas across the state against  what they termed “divisive agenda of the communal political forces.”

“We have a long tradition of Hindu-Muslim unity in the state and Jamiat will continue to preserve and promote it,” Chowdhury said.

“The BJP and the AIMIM are like the pre-partitioned Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League who had formed alliance government in many provinces including Bengal,” he said, adding, the “Jamiat would create mass mobilisation against divisive forces”.

Siddiqui’s uncle Toha Siddiqui, the patriarch of the Siddiqui clan, also opposed his nephew’s move to join hands with Owaisi. “Spiritual leaders should avoid making foray into politics. I oppose any move to strengthen communal forces in the state,” he said.

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