Shoaib Iqbal joins Cong, ditches JD-U

Five-time MLA Shoaib Iqbal left the Janata Dal-United to join the Congress on Thursday, giving a boost to the grand old party which is trying to bounce back in city politics by riding on the support of Muslim voters.

Out of the eight Congress legislators in the now-dissolved Assembly, five were Muslims. In the 2013 Assembly polls, the Congress lost more than 70 per cent of the Muslim support in the city as compared with the 2008 Assembly elections, according to the party's own post poll assessment.

Iqbal, 55, who has a track record of switching parties frequently, joined the Congress at a function which followed a hurriedly convened morning meeting with party vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Describing Iqbal as a prize catch, Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh said, “Iqbal is a secular politician who has never sided with a communal party.”

Iqbal was also a key player in the Congress’ decision to support the Aam Aadmi Party government in the last hung House.

The eight Assembly constituencies in which Muslims can swing the balance are Okhla, Seemapuri, Karawal Nagar, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Seelampur, Ballimaran and Matia Mahal. A shift by Muslim voters towards the Aam Aadmi Party has left the Congress worried.

Former Matia Mahal legislator Iqbal, who till last week claimed to be in touch with Muslim party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) for a switch, said he joined the Congress to fight communal forces and prevent the division of Muslim votes in the coming Delhi Assembly elections.

He said he joined Congress as he felt that the social atmosphere in Delhi was being vitiated. He blamed the BJP for flaring up communal tension and slammed the Aam Aadmi Party for not doing enough to counter the saffron party.

“Some parties want to divide Muslim votes which is not conducive for the community,” said Iqbal, who joined the Congress along with his son Mohammad Iqbal and nephew Khurram Iqbal, both councillors.

All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for Delhi Shakeel Ahmad said Iqbal’s induction signifies the secular philosophy of the Congress which still holds promise to like-minded leaders.

In the December 2013 Delhi Assembly elections, AAP had won 28 seats in the 70-member House and formed the government with the outside support of Congress that had emerged with eight seats. Iqbal and an Independent had also extended support to AAP.

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