On Saturday, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Firhad Hakim was spotted delivering a political speech at a masjid in Kolkata ahead of the upcoming elections in West Bengal, in blatant violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Hakim is the Mayor of Kolkata and the Minister for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs.
The model of conduct clearly states, “There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”
In an exclusive news story, TV9 Bharatvarsh reported that the TMC leader raised political slogans at the masjid. In a bid to continue its stronghold over the Muslim vote bank in the State, Firhad Hakim raised the issue of Gujarat riots that took place 19 years ago. While casting aspersions about the rival BJP, he alleged that the rioting that took place in Gujarat in 2002 should not be allowed to repeat in West Bengal. He appealed to the Muslims gathered in the masjid to note vote for the BJP.
Furthermore, Firhad Hakim said that the honorarium (bhata) paid to Imams would be increased if the Mamata-Banerjee-run-TMC is voted back to power. He assured that he has plans to increase the monthly income of the Muslim clerics in the State. Interestingly, the Imam sitting next to him urged the audience to say ‘Ameen’ (as a gesture of agreement to Hakim’s political speech).
On being confronted by TV9 Bharatvarsh leader, the TMC leader claimed that he had come to the mosque to offer prayers (dua) so that the ‘divisive forces’ can be demolished in the state. He further said that around 2000 people died during the Gujarat riots, 52 during the Delhi riots, and how terrorist Ishrat Jahan was supposedly killed in a fake encounter case. When quizzed about his promise to increase honorarium for Imams, Hakim tried to dodge the question and said that he did not promise anything.
He claimed that only the ‘morally upright’ Muslims become Imams and that they suffer from financial crisis. The TMC leader added that while Mamata Banerjee made the initiative of ‘Imam bhata’, the funds available with Waqf board can solve their financial crisis. On being prodded further, Hakim reiterated that he was invited to the Imam Conference at the masjid premises and that he had come to only offer prayers. Hitting out at the TMC, the BJP has informed that they would approach the Election Commission and register a complaint against Firhad Hakim for violating the Model Code of Conduct.
The fight over Muslim vote bank in West Bengal
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress party and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM have been locked in a battle for Muslim votes in Bengal.
It may be recalled how Mamata Banerjee had launched a scathing attack at Owaisi after the latter announced to enter the electoral fray in the state. She had accused AIMIM of being under the payroll of BJP, saying that they were indirectly helping BJP by dividing the Muslim votes. However, responding to the allegations of Mamata Banerjee, Asaduddin Owaisi had lambasted her by saying that he cannot be bought for money.
On one side, Asaduddin Owaisi is threatening to capture her Muslim vote bank while on the other, the Hindus have already consolidated behind the BJP due to her continuous Muslim appeasement. In such a precarious situation, it is only just that the unnerved Mamata Banerjee wants at least Owaisi to not enter the electoral fray of West Bengal. The Election Commission of India on Friday announced an eight-phased Assembly poll for West Bengal beginning March 27. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.