|Narendra Modi on Monday mocked the Prime Minister as “Maun (silent) Mohan Singh” at a poll rally in Himachal Pradesh, accusing him of failing to show concern at rising prices. “Yesterday, Maun Mohan Singh visited Himachal.... It is impossible to guess what he thinks about the country’s situation,” the Gujarat chief minister said. (PTI)
Ahmedabad, Oct. 29: The cleric sacked as Darul Uloom Deoband’s vice-chancellor for allegedly lauding Narendra Modi has stunned the BJP ahead of the Gujarat polls by dubbing the chief minister a zaalim (tyrant) “not worthy of any praise”.
Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi’s comments have undermined Modi’s first ever attempt to woo Muslim voters on a “sadbhavna” (communal harmony) plank, and prompted the BJP to complain to the Election Commission about his allegedly inflammatory remarks.
The poll panel found nothing objectionable in Vastanvi’s speech, which came at a Congress event on October 21, but issued notices on Saturday to three Muslim politicians, including a likely Congress candidate, who too spoke at the meeting.
Vastanvi, 65, denies having made a U-turn, arguing he had never praised Modi — a stand the Uttar Pradesh-based seminary had rejected while sacking him in July last year.
Five months earlier, Vastanvi had said Gujarat was “developing” and that Muslims should not “live in the past” but focus on how to progress. He claims he never attributed the development solely to Modi but also to the Centre and the entrepreneurial spirit of Gujaratis.
“I never endorsed Modi and would never do so. A zaalim like Modi is not worthy of any praise,” he told the October 21 rally in Tadkeshwar near Surat, asking people to vote for the Congress.
Vastanvi lives in Maharashtra, where he runs the Jamia Islamia Ishaatul Uloom in Nandurbar, near the Gujarat border.
BJP minority cell chief Mehboob Ali alleged that Vastanvi’s controversial remarks of February 2011 were clearly an endorsement of Modi and that the cleric “is clearly under pressure to change his statement”.
“It seems that after being thrown out of Deoband, Vastanvi felt that his socio-religious stature was at stake and he needed to retract his earlier statement,” Ali said.
To control the damage from Vastanvi’s statement, and fearing he might canvass votes for the Congress, the Gujarat BJP has invited a group of Aligarh Muslim University alumni from Bihar to come and campaign for Modi.
This is the first time that Vastanvi, who claims to be an apolitical educationist, has shared a dais with Congress leaders, among whom were local MP and Union minister Tushar Chaudhary.
After examining the CD sent by the BJP, the poll panel has spared Vastanvi and sent notices to senior Congress leader Kadir Pirzada, Congress official Maksud Kazi, and Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind leader Maulana Faiyaz Laturi. They have to explain why action should not be taken against them for their inflammatory speeches.
The state police, however, jumped the gun and registered an FIR against the three yesterday for allegedly inciting people and spreading hatred and communal disharmony. If they don’t get anticipatory bail, the trio could be arrested.
Pirzada alleged the BJP was trying to harass him. “The CD the Election Commission sent to us has been heavily edited. Whatever I had said was in reference to a context. I spoke about peace, harmony and our constitutional rights.”
Pirzada is likely to be fielded from Surat East, a minority-dominated seat. “Realising he is a strong candidate, the BJP wants to frame him so he cannot contest,” Congress leader Sanjay Patwa alleged.
But Parindu Bhagat, the legal convener of the BJP election cell, claimed it was Vastanvi who had been the party’s target. “We had complained to the Election Commission because we wanted action against Vastanvi,” he said.