TMC MP Aparupa Poddar, who now goes by the name of Afrin Ali, found herself in hot water today after questions arose online about her legal capacity to be the Member of Parliament for Arambagh. Since 2009, the Arambagh constituency has been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs). However, since 2014, this particular constituency has been represented by Afrin Ali, who used this particular name in addition to her birth name of Aparupa Poddar at the time of the 2014 general elections
So I have told you about the organisation we closely work with for legally fighting cases of non-dalits using SC benefits.— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) March 11, 2021
The org has taken up this Bengal case: Aparupa Poddar becomes Afrin Ali after marriage but is MP from reserved seat. She is from TMC pic.twitter.com/5N06hPeJsW
Aparupa Poddar’s additional name of Afrin Ali has fueled speculations regarding the religion of the Arambagh MP. As to whether Afrin Ali identifies as a Muslim or not, there are conflicting reports. According to an IANS report, Aparupa Poddar had accepted Islam after her marriage to her husband Mohammad Shakir Ali, who is a TMC councillor for Rishra Municipality, and had changed her name accordingly. However, according to a Hindustan Times report, Afrin Ali states that she merely changed her name after marriage and not her religion. Either way, it is established that Aparupa Poddar changed her birth name to Afrin Ali after her marriage with a Muslim husband on 9th August, 2007.
It is important to note that a practitioner of Islam cannot be elected to Parliament from a reserved constituency. Dalit converts to Islam or Christianity are ineligible to claim reservation benefits. This was made clear on the floor of the Rajya Sabha in response to BJP member G V L Narasimha Rao’s question to Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Speaking on the issue of eligibility to contest from reserved constituencies, the Union Minister clarified that, “Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order outlines that no person who professes a religion different from Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a scheduled caste.”
This is not the first time that Aparupa Poddar/Afrin Ali has been a subject of controversy. In October of 2017, she had confessed to taking a bribe worth Rs. 3 lakh as a part of the Narada sting operation before the 2014 general elections. In May 2020, Afrin Ali and her husband raised eyebrows across Indian social media when they decided to nickname their newborn daughter ‘Corona’ after the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping through the world. The couple’s explanation behind the bizarre nickname was that “her name will continue to remind people of the difficult times the whole world had faced.”