Absence of prominent Muslim leaders leaves JD(S) floundering

Absence of prominent Muslim leaders leaves JD(S) floundering

Bengaluru: Many Muslim leaders have quit the JD(S) of late, striking a severe blow against the party's poll prospects in the run up to the May 12 elections.

The problem was quite glaring, when the party leadership struggled to give a strong rebuttal to the Congress, which questioned its secular credentials accusing it of being 'B' team of the BJP. The regional party did not have any prominent Muslim leaders to defend it against the Congress' attack, which was aimed at consolidating Muslim votes.

A large number of Muslim leaders quit the JD(S) over the past few years, accusing the party of not giving them prominence.

Former Union Minister C M Ibrahim, former legislators B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan, Iqbal Ansari, Abdul Azeem and many other disgruntled leaders quit the party. Also, senior leader Merajuddin Patel passed away in 2008.

Ibrahim's migration to the Congress, the untimely death of Patel and the recent exit of 'vote swingers' - Khan and Ansari - to the ruling party, created a big vacuum in the JD(S). Khan, who represented Chamarajpet constituency in Bengaluru, had emerged as the Muslim face of the JD(S).

Also, the party's former MLC Abdul Azeem joined the BJP and its minority wing state president Shakeel Nawaz joined the Congress.

The JD(S) is now left with leaders like B M Farooq, Danish Ali and Zafrullah Khan, who have a little influence on the electorate. Although the party has been trying its best to poach senior Muslim leaders from the Congress, the efforts have not materialised. The BJP is also facing the same problem. The saffron party does not have any strong Muslim leaders and is unlikely to field any from the community in the forthcoming polls.

The Muslim community had been the JD(S)' strong support base, besides Vokkaligas. The party had been holding sway over several of the Muslim-dominated Assembly constituencies over the years, posing a tough challenge to the Congress' efforts to woo the community.

Calculated moves

The party, however, started facing trouble ever since Chief Minister Siddaramaiah started appeasing Ahinda communities. Not only did the chief minister introduce schemes such as Shaadi Bhagya, he also considerably increased the budgetary allocation to the Minorities Welfare department.

The state government's decision to celebrate 'Tipu Sultan Jayanti', despite stiff opposition, helped the ruling party wean the Muslim community off the JD(S) to a great extent. The regional party did precious little to contain the damage. Instead, it criticised the government for creating a law and order problem by organising the Tipu Jayanti.

The ruling Congress, which is looking forward to consolidate minority votes in its favour in the polls, shrewdly hit the regional party where it hurt the most. Congress president Rahul Gandhi during his recent tour to the Mysore region, which is considered the JD(S)' stronghold, charged that 'S' in the JD(S) stood for Sangh Parivar, while Siddaramaiah accused the party of having a tacit understanding with the BJP.

The JD(S) leaders now fear that the Congress' efforts to consolidate Muslim votes may throw a spanner in the party's attempts to come back to power after a long gap.

 

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