Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas' pro-RSS statements have sent shockwaves among the Muslim electorate in Maharashtra. During the course of an interview given to a Hindi channel, Vishwas, who is the AAP candidate against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, has praised the RSS as a disciplined force and that even Jawaharlal Nehru had invited it to meetings held in the wake of the 1965 Indo-Pak war. He is further seen stating that given a choice between the Congress and the BJP, he would support the latter. He has also added for good measure that in the 2009 polls, he had voted for the BJP. These statements have not gone down well with Muslim voters who were planning to back AAP in a big way.
Maharashtra Muslim Front president, Farid Batatawala, on Monday sent a communication to AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal asking him to expel Vishwas from the party "within 24 hours". "If Kejriwal does not do that then our Front will appeal to all Muslim voters not to back AAP. I sent an SMS to Kejriwal voicing our demand, but he responded by asking me where and when Vishwas made his observations. I have informed him that it is all over YouTube. Earlier, Vishwas had insulted Imam Hussain and now he is praising the RSS. Nothing less than his sacking from AAP will satisfy Muslim voters," said Batatawala. President of the All India Secular Voters' Council Mohammed Patel too echoed Batatawala's statement. "No Muslim will support AAP which is having leaders like Vishwas," Patel added.
General secretary of the All-India Ulema Council Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi said any party claiming to be secular should have no place for a person like Vishwas. "In a democracy, people do have the right to air their opinion. But a secular party should not harbour a man like Vishwas who hold pro-RSS views," he stated. Advocate S K Halwasiya, who is also a scholar in Arabic and Sanskrit, said most Muslims will not like the statement of Vishwas. "Kejriwal is a secular leader, but not Vishwas. I don't understand how these two contradictory views can exist in the same party." Convenor of Raza Academy, a prominent organisation of Barelvi Muslims, Maulana Syed Noorie, said: "Communalism is a bigger challenge than corruption. It causes more damage to the nation than corruption. In this context, Vishwas' statements are deplorable."
Sarfaraz Arzoo, activist and Muslim intellectual said: "Vishwas has always been indulging in loose talk. If BJP was all that good in comparison to the Congress, then why did AAP not join hands with it in Delhi to form the government there? Noted lawyer and NCP's Rajya Sabha member Majid Memon said, "The BJP's manifesto released on Monday makes it amply clear that the party's core agenda remained communal. It has raked up issues like building Ram Mandir, scrapping Article 370 and imposing uniform civil code. These issues reflect the priorities of the RSS. If anyone supports a party like the BJP, then he has no place in a secular organisation. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal should immediately sack Vishwas from his organisation. Else, the secular credentials of AAP will be totally destroyed."
AAP activists in Mumbai are worried about the implications of Vishwas' statements on the elections. "Until recently, we were receiving good support from Muslims. But, Vishwas' statements are certain to upset them even though they have total faith in the secularism of Kejriwal. The senior leadership of our party is seized of the matter," an AAP activist, who did not wish to be identified, stated. Incidentally, there are reports that Vishwas is miffed with Kejriwal for not campaigning for him.