KOLKATA: Prominent Islamic cleric Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district launched Indian Secular Front (ISF), a new political party, on Thursday.
Abbas said the party will announce later on the number of seats it will contest in the upcoming Assembly elections. He did not rule out the possibility of alliance with the CPI(M) and the Congress. The move by the cleric threatens to chip away at the ruling Trinamool Congress’s minority vote-share.
"Our party’s prime agenda will be betterment of Muslims and those who belong to other backward classes. The CPI(M) and the Congress sent fillers to me. Both of them asked me to float the political party. Now, let us see," said Abbas.
A Congress leader met Abbas this month at Furfura Sharif and CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra refused to term Siddiqui’s party as a communal outfit.
Political observers in Bengal found the ISF’s appearance on the politically volatile soil of Bengal would pave a smooth entry for the AIMIM, which performed impressively in the Bihar Assembly elections by bagging five seats located along the Bengal border region. AIMIM’s chief Asaduddin Owaisi met Abbas at Furfura Sharif early this month and said his party would contest the 2021 Assembly elections in Bengal under the leadership of the cleric.
Though Abbas said his party’s door would remain open for all, he did not clear whether he would join hands with the TMC to decimate the BJP’s goal to wrest the seat of power.
Asked about the TMC’s allegation that ISF’s participation would result in electoral dividend in favour of the BJP, Abbas said, "I would like to ask the ruling party to answer my question who has brought the BJP in Bengal. The TMC did not keep its 2011 poll promises. Instead, they triggered communal discord in the state."
He said the door of his party would remain open for all organisations to form a grand alliance and the TMC needed rectification before approaching an alliance with the ISF.
The 31 per cent Muslim votes in Bengal are largely seen as the vote bank of CM Mamata Banerjee. The state has 125 minority-dominated Assembly constituencies in which 85 have more than 35 per cent concentration of Muslim electorates.
Referring to his uncle Twaha Siddiqui’s stance against the decision of contesting in the upcoming election, Abbas said, "Most of the clerics in Bengal are with me. If one or two are against me, how does it matter?" Twaha is also a cleric in Furfura Sharif.
The cleric said his party would carry out movement on the issues of inclusion of the Constitution in school syllabus and repeal of three new farm laws in near future.
TMC MP Saugata Roy described Abbas’s move as an act made at the behest of the BJP. "It is well known that AIMIM is working on behalf of the BJP and the ISF will play the same role in Bengal. But it will not cause any dent on our electoral strength," he said.
BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said the ISF’s appearance would increase the pulse rate of West Bengal CM.