The Congress president Sonia Gandhi has struck a deal with Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid to secure the Muslim vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The exact details of this deal are unknown but Shahi Imam is someone who does nothing for free of cost. His endorsement of the Congress must have come at a price. But what is this price?
Shahi Imam's writ runs large in and around Jama Masjid. Since he wants to support the secular forces, it is worth taking a look at his shenanigans. To begin with his post of Imam is to lead only prayers but he has become the owner of the Jama Masjid. For example, there is this guest house inside the Jama Masjid built with government's money which he is using as his personal rest house. He has even constructed a big house for his son next to this guest house. When the issue came to light, he dismissed such a big house as a mere bathroom.
In 2006, the Saudi Arabia prince Abdullah nearly got conned by Shahi Imam who had asked him for funds to repair the historic monument. When government learnt of this, Shahi Imam categorically denied having asked the prince for any financial help. He had assumed that the funds from the Saudi prince would directly flow into his coffers without the Government of India coming to know about it.
What else? The Jama Masjid also owed rupees 4 crore rupees in electricity bills dues. When pressed for the payment, he blamed the Waqf for the delay. But soon Waqf made it clear that since all the income generated from the Jama Masjid goes to Shahi Imam, he should foot the bill. Shahi Imam wanted waqf to make him the property owner. But the waqf refused and the matter went to court.
In 2005 the Delhi court ruled in waqaf's favour stating that the Jama masjid belonged to waqaf and Shahi Imam was waqaf's employee. There is still more. Even illegal activities are thriving around the Jama Masjid under Shahi Imam's protection. The police does not want to arrest him because this would cause communal riots in the vicinity. The things have come to such a pass that the police does not even register an FIR if the Accused or co-accused happens to be Shahi Imam.
Apart from all this, Shahi Imam's various flip-flops on his political posturing are only too well-known. He had spawned venom at the Congress in the past. Sonia Gandhi's desperation to seek the Muslim vote at any cost have forced her to turn a blind eye to Shahi Imam's past verbal valleys. He has subjected the Samajvadi party too to the same treatment. He has even endorsed the BJP in the past. His shifting political preferences are testimony to the fact that his endorsement is easy to come by if the party is ready to quote the right price. But is the Muslim community outside Delhi interested in following his advice or suggestion? The Congress should have done well to ask this important question before striking a closed door deal with Shahi Imam.
Irfan Iqbal Gheta tweets at @IrfanIGheta.