‘Is It A Crime To Support Mulayam Singh?’

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Zainul Abedin, the head of the Ajmer Sharif dargah, tells Tusha Mittal why he asked Muslims to support Mulayam despite his alliance with Kalyan Singh

Zainul AbedinYou recently voiced your support for Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. Why?
Why can’t I support Mulayam Singh? Is it a crime? If a friend asks you for support, will you refuse? I am supporting him because all secular forces need to unite against communal forces. After former Uttar Pradesh CM Narayan Dutt Tiwari, Mulayam is the only leader who has worked irrespective of caste or creed.

Did Mulayam approach you for support?
I was in Lucknow for a function. Some Samajwadi Party (SP) cadres first approached me and asked me to appeal to the Muslim community to vote for the SP. Then I met Mulayam Singh as well.

Many Muslims are still angry over the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Why are you asking them to support a party that has tied up with Kalyan Singh, a man who was Uttar Pradesh CM when the Babri Masjid was demolished?
He hasn’t joined Mulayam Singh’s party. Anyhow, an enemy of an enemy is a friend. Kalyan Singh has left the BJP and is asking for forgiveness. I have no personal enmity with him.

But they are contesting from the same platform. Doesn’t Kalyan Singh’s alliance with Mulayam concern you?
Why can’t two friends eat at the same table? My only hope is that Allah bestows wisdom and iman ki daulat (the gift of integrity) on Kalyan Singh, so that he apologises to the nation, especially to Muslims.

He has apologised. Is it enough? Have you forgiven him?
He should apologise to Allah, whose house he has broken. Who am I to forgive?

‘I have relations with Shiv Sena and the BJP. I’d ask Muslims to vote for them depending on their proposal’

But you are the head of the Ajmer Sharif dargah. Will you advise all Muslims who follow you to forgive Kalyan Singh, and even vote for him?
Why would I give them such wrong advice? Kalyan Singh has not joined the SP. I am not asking them to vote for Kalyan Singh. They have two different party symbols. Mulayam’s is the cycle and Kalyan’s is a glass. The party symbol determines who has joined the party. Had Mulayam inducted Kalyan Singh into the SP, I would think twice.

You have also said that you’re ready to forgive the BJP if they work for the people? What do you mean?
I am a religious leader. For me all parties are the same. I bless whoever comes to my dargah, no matter their caste, creed, or party affiliation. Both Congress and BJP politicians come to me. I am close to all the top BJP leaders. If we meet at a function, we definitely have tea together. Narendra Modi and I were together at a United Nations function. I also have close relations with the Shiv Sena.

If Modi, Thackeray or any BJP leader asks you to appeal to the Muslim community for votes, will you?
I will think about it. It depends on their proposal. For now, I have appealed to the Muslim community to help Mulayam Singh win. The Congress is not in a position to win in UP. To defeat communal forces and get a secular government at the Centre, it is imperative that Mulayam wins.

Many Muslim leaders who are disillusioned with mainstream politics are spearheading new Muslim parties, the Ulema Council for example. Why not support them?
When have regional parties ever won? To win this fight, Muslims have to become doctors, engineers, IPS officers, and we have to support parties who will make this possible.

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Special Correspondent

Tusha Mittal has been with Tehelka since March 2008. She was educated at La Martiniere, Kolkata, and has a bachelor’s degree from Depauw University in Indiana. While in the US, she worked as a reporter and a special sections editor for a local newspaper in Boston. She also interned with CNN Internationalin Atlanta and NBC Universal in London. In her final year in college, she studied the idea of peace journalism and the role of the media in covering conflict.

She travelled to Kashmir for her graduation thesis, which dissected the role of the Indian and Pakistani media in shaping public perception of the Kashmir conflict. Her journalism interests include reporting on environment, human rights, and conflict. She has recently won The Press Institute of India award for best articles on humanitarian issues published in the Indian media. AtTehelka, she has written extensively on land rights and displacement struggles. She is based in New Delhi.

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