Party says it will abide by istikharah (seeking Allah's nod before important tasks) to allot seats; ticket seekers say it is just an excuse for dodgy picks
Former AIMIM member Mohammed Umar Khan joined the NCP after being denied a ticket. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Even the rigidly religious are bound to wonder if leaving the fate of poll ticket aspirants in the hands of God is stretching it a bit much. But the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is making no bones about adopting this strategy for the BMC election. It has issued tickets over the last 10 days to a number of candidates based on the Salat al-Istikharah.
Istikharah involves praying when in need of guidance on an issue and leaving it to God for an answer. The plan was apparently carried out at the behest of Kausar Mohiuddin, MLA from Karwan, Telangana, who arrived in the city 15 days ago to help the party sharpen its strategy for the BMC election. He reportedly suggested that names of all aspirants be sent to AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi for selection through an Istikharah.
This has prompted many disgruntled party members to jump ship to other parties. Rafiq Kamdar is one of them. The former treasurer of AIMIM's Kalwa-Mumbra region recently joined the Shiv Sena from Thane after being exasperated by the ticket distribution method. "Istikharah is a religious ritual and it should not be dragged into politics. It is wrong to leave an aspirant's fate in the hands of God. The process should not be communalised," he rues.
He alleges that two AIMIM candidates from Mumbra, Sajid Shaikh and Ibrahim Ashrafi, have chequered pasts. "Shaikh is an MSEB agent who illegally supplies power to people. Ashrafi is a middlemen who arranged meetings of big businessmen and senior Hyderabad leaders (of AIMIM)."
Former AIMIM workers claim party president Asaduddin Owaisi performs the Salat al-Istikharah to select candidates, Kausar Mohiuddin, Telangana MLA, who arrived 15 days ago and Hasan Mulani quit the AIMIM and joined the NCP yesterday
Sources said of the others, Tajjuddin Khan (from ward 31) was convicted for gang rape 10 years and Iqbal Mulani (ward 31) has been booked in several cases, including murder. Former AIMIM leader Mohammed Umar Khan (47) from Mumbra is just as disgruntled, but he take a cautious stand on the issue. Khan was promised two tickets — for himself and his wife — from Mumbra soon after joining the AIMIM six months ago. A week ago, that promise was snatched, prompting him to join the NCP.
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He, however, doesn't rail against the party strategy. "Istikharah is followed by all Muslims, especially when it comes to taking key life decisions. I'm glad the party is staying true to its religious spirit. I found that while AIMIM leaders invoked religion in their speeches, they weren't truly religious," says the now NCP vice-president from Kalwa-Mumbra.
Hasan Mulani, who quit as the Thane district secretary of AIMIM and joined the NCP yesterday, too, gives a cagey response. "In the last three years, we found that the party has nothing to show for work on the ground. They are only playing with people's sentiments by using Istikharah as a card," he says. Pointing out that a Hindu candidate, Mahendra Komurlekar, is contesting from Mumbra ward 32, he questions if an Istikharah had indeed churned out his name.
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Waris Pathan, the sole AIMIM MLA from Mumbai, however, claims that a thorough assessment of partymen's work alone helps candidates make the cut. "Around three such surveys are underway. The opinions of the public as well senior leaders are also taken into consideration. The allegation made is baseless. All that I know is that all selection is predicated on internal assessments."
mid-day reached to Mohiuddin for a comment, but all he told this reporter was: "You are familiar with how candidates are selected." The SCâÂÂÂÂÂÂruled last month that "religion, race, caste, community or language would not be allowed to play any role in the electoral process".
Advocate Adil Khatri says he was promised a ticket from ward 96 in Bandra East. "AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi has admitted that he performs the Istikharah before giving out tickets. But I have learnt that the ritual is not performed, and it's only a tact to extort a bribe. When the first list of AIMIM candidates was released on January 24, my name was on it. The day, I was asked to pay R50 lakh to get the ticket. On January 27, Ahmed Balala, an MLA from Hyderabad, called me up to make the same demand, as did two corporators from Hyderabad, who met me in a hotel on January 29."