Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari on Friday declared his support to Congress saying it will "strengthen" secularism and termed communalism as "bigger threat" to the country than corruption.
Considered an influential religious leader, Bukhari appealed to Muslims to support Congress and ensure that secular votes are not divided, days after his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi sparked a row.
"For the coming Lok Sabha elections, I announce support for the Congress. We have to fight unitedly against communal forces," he said at a press conference here.
Bukhari said though the Muslim community has grievances against Congress, still a decision to support the party was taken as the "country cannot be allowed to go to the communal forces".
"The nation faces danger from communal forces. We should ensure secular votes are not divided," the Imam said.
He said the country was facing a bigger problem of communalism and "communal forces are working day in and day out to break the country."
The announcement by Bukhari came three days after his meeting with Gandhi that raised hackles of BJP, which accused her of communalising politics and said it was case of violation of the model code of conduct.
"Will Support TMC in West Bengal"
He also announced supporting Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Congress ally RJD in Bihar.
On supporting TMC, he said Mamata Banerjee has already made it clear that she will not join NDA and that is why he will back her.
"Her role will be crucial in forming government at Centre. I appeal to West Bengal voters to support Mamata Banerjee," he said.
The Imam said he was making an appeal to Muslims and it was up to them to make a decision.
"I am giving my opinion as a voter. I am free to give my opinion as no rules stop me from doing so. This is for people to decide whether they accept my appeal or not. In the last 65 years, no party has worked for the welfare of Muslims.
"If we had our own party, we would not have been in such a bad situation. Other communities like Akali and Yadavs have their own parties," he said.
Slams SP, BSP
Attacking Samajwadi Party, he accused it of betraying the Muslims by not fulfilling its promises. "It is also responsible for Muzaffarnagar riots."
He termed BSP as an "opportunistic party" and said supporting regional outfits will be a "waste of vote".
"We will not support either SP or BSP. Supporting regional parties will be a waste of vote," he said.