Explaining why he appealed to Muslims in Uttar Pradesh to vote against the Samajwadi Party (SP), Syed Ahmed Bukhari, New Delhi’s Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam, said that Muslims should send out the message that they are under no compulsion to vote for the so-called secular parties. Holding Akhilesh Yadav, the incumbent Chief Minister of UP, responsible for “inaction” towards development of Muslims in the state, Bukhari said that Muslims in UP have been “cheated”.

Contrary to this year’s Legislative Assembly elections, Bukhari in 2012 had asked Muslims to support the SP, but earlier this week, Bukhari appealed to Muslims that they should collectively vote for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Bukhari explained why he changed sides this year and said, “In 2012, Mulayam and Akhilesh had come to me to request that I support their party in the upcoming elections. They wanted to discuss with me the cause of the minorities in the state. The issues that I told them, they included them in their election manifesto. But that was all. Since 2012, I have been reminding them of their promises. But Akhilesh failed to take responsibilities for the assurances he gave. Even Mulayam Singh Yadav asked Akhilesh that he should not ignore Muslims in UP. But Akhilesh did not do anything.” Taking a jibe at the dramatic division of SP between Mulayam and Akhilesh, Bukhari said, “The man who did not respect his old father and ousted him from the party that his father worked so hard for and forced him to cry in loneliness, cannot be deemed fit to serve the people.” 

Asked why he is supporting the BSP, which, too, claims to be a secular party, Bukhari said, “BSP is also a secular party and it is not cheating the minorities. The Dalits and Muslims in UP are two most ignored communities. It is important for both these sects to unite and understand that they cannot allow themselves to be taken for granted. The secular parties think that minorities have no other option but to vote for them, but we should tell them that they are wrong.”

For passing politically motivated statements around polls, Bukhari has been criticised for misusing his position and outreach by SP and Congress ministers. Commenting on his critics, Bukhari said, “The people who I am not supporting today, for them I was a good person back in 2012 because I was standing beside them. I am not claiming who will win or lose. I am a citizen of this country and I am only exercising my right to express my thoughts. I don’t think SP is the party that minorities should be voting in this election.”

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