The Telegraph
Saturday , March 1 , 2014
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Poll whiff in Gaurav move

Nagaon, Feb. 28: A religious conference organised by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in Nagaon district today acquired political overtones after Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav appeared at the event.

More than three lakh people attended the conference, which was organised by the Arshad Madani faction of the Jamiat at Sialekhati near Amoni town, 40km from the district headquarters of Nagaon. Amoni falls under Nagaon district and Kaliabor Lok Sabha constituency.

The grand imam of Nabvi-Madina Munawara Masjid, Abdul Mehsin al-Qasim, conducted the namaz.

The presence of Gaurav raised eyebrows because he is likely to fight the Lok Sabha polls from Kaliabor seat, now held by his uncle Dip.

The AIUDF, headed by Badruddin Ajmal, accused the Congress of misusing religion in the name of politics. While forest minister Rakibul Hussain is a leading member of the Arshad Madani faction in Assam, Ajmal heads the other faction of the state Jamiat.

“The arrival of the grand imam is a religious issue and nobody should try to take political mileage from the event. The Congress has misused the conference to get political mileage among the minority community,” alleged AIUDF central committee general secretary Matiur Rahman.

However, Gaurav played down his appearance. “This is a totally religious programme and we are not here for any political reason,” he told reporters before participating in the namaz. Hussain, who is vice-president of the Arshad Madani faction, and supply minister Nazrul Islam, accompanied him. Gaurav reached the venue at 11.15am, 15 minutes before the arrival of al-Qasim, participated in the jumma namaz and left after the munajat (prayer) ended.

Asked whether members of other Jamiat factions attended the gathering, a senior AIUDF member said they did not stop anyone from attending the namaz because it was a religious function.

Muslims from Nagaon and Morigaon districts flocked to Amoni to participate in the event. There was a huge shortage of public transport as many vehicles were reserved for carrying devotees. “I left work and rushed to Amoni when I heard the imam will be present,” said Mijanur Rahman, a carpenter.

Tarun Gogoi hosted a dinner this evening in honour of al-Qasim at his official hilltop residence in Guwahati.

Congress leaders said Gaurav’s presence and the dinner were not any political design. “There is no bar on attending a religious conference. Similarly, there is no bar on hosting a leading figure such as the grand imam. It is a matter of courtesy,” a leader said.