BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is no more a political untouchable for Muslims who could vote for him if he changes himself and does not repeat past mistakes. Prominent Muslim cleric and vice-president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, who commands a mass following in the minority community, surprised many when he said this on Friday.
Political watchers see the cleric’s statement in the context of Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Indore where he said Pakistan’s ISI was in touch with some Muslim youngsters in riot-hit Muzzaffarnagar.
It is understood that many Muslim leaders are upset with the way Rahul has linked Muslims to terrorism. The cleric’s statement is also being considered a major boost for the BJP’s PM-in-waiting who has been facing constant flak over the 2002 Gujarat riots in which many Muslims were killed.
Sadiq said he was not happy with Modi’s past “but no one is a political untouchable”. He said Islam doesn’t endorse such ideas and that it allows for pardon and mercy even if a criminal truly and honestly expresses regret and promises to reform himself. “I can also vote for Modi if he changes himself,” he asserted.
Praising Modi’s development model in Gujarat, Sadiq said: “Our first priority is India’s growth on all fronts. Muslims would vote for India’s development and won’t mind voting even for Modi if he changes himself.”
“People should be given a chance to correct their mistakes. Modi should make changes in his policies and programmes to convey that he is concerned about the welfare of Muslims. If he does that, Muslims could consider voting for him.
“There are differences in words and deeds of Modi and people have lost faith in him after Gujarat riots,” Sadiq said. “What happened in Gujarat (in 2002) was very heartbreaking,” he added.
Asked if the Gujarat chief minister should ‘apologise’ for the riots, Sadiq said rather than tendering an apology, he should prove through his actions that he has changed.
On Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remarks about ISI being in touch with Muzaffarnagar riot victims, the Maulana said, “This must be investigated. If somebody has a relative there (in Pakistan) and they speak to him, then we can’t say, but there must be no compromise on terrorism.”
Political pundits here see in his comments a warning for Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, for whom Muslims are the party’s crucial votebank. He has been facing criticism over his son and UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s handling of last month’s communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar besides the frequent riots taking place in UP.