The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Revolt within & without rips secular face

Bhopal, Nov. 16: The BJP’s secular face in Madhya Pradesh is a disillusioned man. The collective might of Uma Bharti and others have failed to prevail upon local party workers to accept Moin Ansari, who would have been the lone Muslim among the party’s 230 candidates for the coming Assembly polls.

Much of Moin’s bitterness is also directed at his own community in Burhanpur which made it clear that it would not support the candidate from “Narendra Modi’s party”.

The Modi link was aimed at thousands of influential Bohra Muslims whose relatives in Gujarat had suffered during the riots last year. Burhanpur has a substantial Muslim population, with 30 per cent of the residents belonging to the minority community.

The BJP big three — Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and M. Venkaiah Naidu — had cleared Moin’s name and virtually nobody from the state objected. After all, Moin had been a faithful foot soldier for the last 25 years when veteran leaders like Kushabhau Thakre and Kailash Joshi called the shots. Moin had accepted every assignment — from jobs like putting posters to participating in jhadavadan (flag hoisting).

But when he was chosen for nomination at Joshi’s instance and Bharti approved, all hell broke loose in local party units. There were demonstrations, black flags and sit-ins. Bharti stepped in to quell the mini-rebellion but local leaders made it clear that Moin would not be helped. No “self-respecting” party worker would go out to fetch votes for him, they said.

Bharti, who is spearheading the BJP’s campaign in the state, said she would still go ahead but by the time she asserted herself, Moin’s loyalists had become angry.

A meeting was arranged where Bharti praised Moin’s grit and “instructed” him to stay on, but the weary veteran simply folded his hands, signalling that his own community members had forced him to take the stand.

Sources close to Bharti said she was upset for two reasons. First, a “genuine worker” was being marginalised. Second, Moin was important for her at a time when she was consciously trying to underplay her Ayodhya rabble-rouser image and focus on development.

Moin said he had made up his mind not to contest as a BJP nominee after a local leader, Mahant Swami Umesh Mani, told him point-blank that “not a single Hindu” would vote for him. “Suddenly I felt that I was always an outsider. I did not want to vitiate the atmosphere. I realised that if I go ahead, the communal rift would widen. I then decided that my presence in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly was not worth causing any bloodshed.”

Moin admitted that some local Muslim leaders did their bit to spoil his chances. One of them, Hameed Qazi, was fielded as an Independent to give out the signal that Muslim votes would not go to the BJP. Muted threats of “isolation” from the community also worked on Moin and his family.

Kailash Parikah, the new BJP nominee from Burhanpur is, however, optimistic and hopes Moin will get over the “temporary phase” and come out to campaign for him.

If Moin is disillusioned, another Muslim aspirant, Arif Baig, has gone into a shell. The former Union minister switched sides one month before the polls were announced, hoping that he or his son Azam would be given a ticket.

Baig, who was Union minister during the Janata Party regime, had even claimed that had he left the Congress a few years ago, he would have been in Rashtrapati Bhavan in place of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

A few days later, he claimed that the BJP leadership was insisting that he become governor of Rajasthan. Two weeks later, Baig was busy telling one and all that he was under pressure to contest from Bhopal (North) while he had recommended his son to take on the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.

The final BJP list, however, made no mention of either Azam or his “illustrious” father.

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