West Bengal Assembly polls: Muslim cleric floats political outfit Indian Secular Front, says 'want to be kingmaker'

FP Staff
·3-min read

Ahead of the West Bengal Assembly elections, Abbas Siddiqui, the cleric of Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district, announced his political outfit €" Indian Secular Front (ISF) €" on Thursday.

Furfura Sharif is the state's most prominent medieval shrine and holds influence over Muslims in south Bengal.

His brother Nausad Siddiqui will be the chairman of the party while Simul Soren was named its president, Indian Express reported.

"We have announced our party today. We will now sit for talks with other parties like AIMIM and then decide in how many seats we will field candidates. At present, we are considering all 294 seats," said the 34-year-old cleric.

Siddiqui's ISF includes at least 10 more tribal and Dalit groups from several districts of Bengal, and has tied up with Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM to contest at least 70 of the total 294 seats this year, according to The Print.

He also said that the number could go up if the alliances agree.

Some of the goals of the new party are: upliftment of backward masses €" Muslims, tribals and Dalits. But its emergence is driven by disaffection with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

"We, the Muslims of West Bengal, misjudged Mamata Banerjee. We trusted her and supported her, but now we feel deceived. Our party will fight for the deceived, deprived and downtrodden people of Bengal," said Siddiqui.

The development comes after Owaisi visited Furfura, located in Jangipara subdivision of Hooghly district, earlier this month and declared his intention to back Siddiqui in the 2021 Assembly polls.

One of the descendants of the late Pir Abu Baqar Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif, Siddiqui said that he wants to be a king maker and will not contest polls. "I want to be the king maker. I will not contest polls. But will do everything possible for the party. We will work for the betterment of Muslims, Dalits and poor people. Our party is for all," he said.

According to political observers, his faction may emerge as a key factor in division of Bengali speaking Muslim votes which, so far, was with TMC in south Bengal and with Congress in parts of north Bengal.

"Years of Congress rule, then that of CPM and then Trinamool Congress in Bengal did nothing for the Muslims or the poor people," added Siddiqui.

Responding to the allegations that his outfit is a ploy to split the Muslim vote and help the BJP, Siddiqui made an oblique reference to the Trinamool Congres and said: "There was no BJP before the 2011. Who is to be blamed for the rise of the BJP?"

He accused the ruling party of not fulfilling the promises made to the minorities in the state.

"It was Trinamool Congress which allowed BJP to get into Bengal and win 18 Lok Sabha seats. I have a constitutional right to announce a political party," said Siddiqui.

Muslims constitute 27.01 percent of the population in West Bengal and they have since 2011 been voting overwhelmingly in favour of TMC. A split in Muslim votes is likely to split Mamata's so-called vote bank in the state.

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