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Rahul rush to placate minorities

Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Feb. 13: Rahul Gandhi is reaching out to Muslims and has promised to address their concerns if the UPA is voted back to power.

In several meetings over the past couple of months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress vice-president has told them that the government and the party are exploring “suitable action” in the coming weeks.

Minority affairs minister K. Rehman Khan said the Congress manifesto would be ready soon, include key demands voiced by minority leaders and would serve as the road map for the party.

“Recently, Rahulji told us that he will include our list of demands in the manifesto and promised to fulfil them if the UPA is voted back. We told him that Muslims were very disillusioned with the government as it has failed to address their main problems,” said Zafar Mahmood, president of Zakat Foundation of India, the country’s largest Muslim charity.

Others echoed the view. “The community has no option but to look for some other alternative in the coming election if the Congress does not find ways to address the problems. Lip service will not help,” said Zafarul Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella body of community organisations.

During a December interaction with Rahul, several community leaders had criticised the Congress for its failure to address the problems. These included claims of youths being framed in terror cases by security agencies.

Others pointed to the Centre’s failure to set up an equal opportunity commission and offer government job quotas, besides poor implementation of the Prime Minister’s 15-point welfare programme for minorities.

Such is the disillusionment that some organisations, including the Zakat, have declared they would support the Aam Aadmi Party if the Congress does not give written assurances to fulfil their demands.

“The AAP can be a good option if the Congress does not come up with any constructive plans to solve the long-standing problems of the community. We want to see to see which party is committed to ending the injustice meted out to the largest minority group,” said Mahmood Madani, who heads the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind.

The Zakat’s Mahmood, a former Indian Revenue Service official who had worked in the PMO in 2005-2006 under Manmohan Singh, suggested the community’s eyes were on the Congress’s manifesto. “We were only waiting for the Congress manifesto as Rahul Gandhi has promised to include all our demands. If he fails to do so, we have other options this time.”