Bhopal, Mar 23: The Samajwadi Party (SP) which humbled the Congress in recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls by cornering majority of the Muslim votes, has offered an olive branch to the minority community in Madhya Pradesh by nominating Choudhary Munawwar Saleem of Vidisha to the Rajya Sabha from the neighbouring state.
“Certainly, it was courageous of SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav, as by doing so he has made an effort to attract the Muslim community towards it in Madhya Pradesh,” senior Congress leader and former Union Minister, Aslam Sher Khan told PTI.
“He could have easily accommodated any Muslim leader from Uttar Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha, but by taking this step (of nominating Saleem), the SP has made an effort to woo the minority community towards it,” Khan, who is also a former hockey Olympian said.
When asked whether the decision of the Congress not to send any Muslim candidate to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh has annoyed the community here, Khan said the fundamental problem with the minority community here is that it has no leadership in the state.
Secondly, Congress has to seriously think on an important issue that earlier nearly 70 per cent Muslims voted for the party but due to lack of any viable alternative. Now, this percentage is declining to 40-45 per cent in the elections.
The Congress has to give more representation to the community in the assembly elections, which normally votes enbloc for the party, to assuage its feelings and for ensuring that the BJP won't come to power for the third time in a row in Madhya Pradesh.
However, the lone Muslim MLA from Congress in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Arif Aqueel said the SP will hardly get any benefit by this move as it has no foundation in the state.
Only those voters who have a 50:50 mind towards Congress and BJP may go with the SP in the state.
To a question, whether BJP will get any benefit by nominating former deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptullah to the Upper House from Madhya Pradesh, Aqueel asked, “What BJP has done for the community? Has it implemented the Sachhar panel report or appointed any educated person in the Madarsa Board?”
“You cannot get the votes of the community merely by wearing caps,” Aqueel said in an apparent reference to the BJP leaders visiting the community during festivals to appease them.
“In fact, there is a strong resentment in the Muslim community and these days people are raising a demand in their circle to protect their daughters and daughter-in-laws from BJP leaders,” he said in an apparent reference to reports of alleged involvement of a saffron party MLA with the community women in connection with the RTI activist Shehla Masood's murder case.
However, Madhya Pradesh BJP's Minority Cell President, Hidayatullah Shiekh said that it is not just with the nomination of Heptullah that the minority community's interest in the BJP has considerably rose since the Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan came to power.
The rising percentage of Muslim votes in the three bypolls—Kukshi, Sonkatch and Jabera—that BJP wrested from Congress is an example of it, the BJP leader said.
The SP leader (Saleem) has been associated with the party since it was active in Madhya Pradesh. Hailing from Vidisha, Saleem has been close to the SP's Muslim face, Mohammed Azam Khan, the party sources said.
Even in the recently held Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, he remained active in the neighbouring state and worked extensively for the party.