KOLKATA: Prominent Islamic cleric Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district on Thursday launched a political party named Indian Secular Front (ISF), announcing his intent to enter the fray for the upcoming assembly elections in the state. This is seen in certain quarters as a threat to chip away at the ruling Trinamool Congress’s minority vote base.
Unveiling the new entity’s green and navy blue flag, Siddiqui said the party will announce later how many seats it will contest in. He did not rule out an alliance with the CPI(M) and Congress.
“Our party’s prime agenda will be betterment of Muslims and those who belong to other backward classes. The CPI(M) and Congress have sent fillers. Both asked me to float the party first,” said Siddiqui.
Political observers likened ISF to the AIMIM, which won five seats in the Bihar assembly elections, along the Bengal border region. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had met Siddiqui at Furfura Sharif earlier this month and said his party would contest elections in Bengal under the leadership of the cleric.
Asked about TMC’s allegation that ISF’s participation would benefit BJP, Siddiqui 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 promises made in 2011. Instead, they triggered communal discord in the state.”
He also said the door of his party would remain open for all organisations to form a grand alliance and the TMC needed rectification before approaching alliance with the ISF.
Muslims constitute about 31 per cent of voters in West Bengal and are seen as a vote bank of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
There are around 125 minority-dominated constituencies and 85 where Muslims voters are above 35 per cent. On his uncle Twaha Siddiqui’s stance against the decision of contesting in elections, Siddiqui said,
“Most of the clerics in Bengal are with me. If one or two are not, how does it matter?” Twaha is also a cleric in Furfura Sharif. TMC MP Saugata Roy described the development as a strategy of BJP.
“It is known that AIMIM is working for 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 ISF’s appearance would increase the pulse rate of chief minister Banerjee.