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Lucknow: Shia Support for the BJP Reflects Complex Political Dynamics

Prominent Shia leaders met BJP candidate Rajnath Singh recently and promised their full support to him.

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The historical significance of the parliamentary seat in Lucknow has been fascinating, with a notable trend of some sections of the Shia community in the region aligning with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Despite varying opinions, some Shia scholars find common ground in supporting the BJP. Recently, prominent Shia leaders, including Maulana Kalbe Jawad, Maulana Yasoob Abbas, Maulana Saif Abbas, Maulana Agha Ruhi, and Maulana Faridul Hasan, met BJP candidate Rajnath Singh, offering their support to him.

Former prime minister and BJP stalwart, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who hailed from Lucknow, won the election from the Uttar Pradesh capital city five times and faced defeat thrice. Since 1991, the parliamentary seat in Lucknow has been predominantly held by the BJP. Following Vajpayee’s victories, Lalji Tandon secured the seat, and now Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is contesting for the third time.

Lucknow voters, it has been observed, tend to prioritise the party over the candidate’s personality. In 1963, Anand Narayan Mulla, an independent candidate, won the seat, demonstrating the electorate’s disinclination towards party allegiance. Vajpayee’s charismatic personality also played a significant role, and Lalji Tandon’s support for the Shia community further strengthened the BJP’s position. Currently, Rajnath Singh is perceived as a good individual representing the wrong party, reflecting a complex sentiment among the voters.

Clarion India engaged with experts from Lucknow to delve into why some of the city’s Shia community often end up supporting the BJP. Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi, a former Information Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh, emphasised that the Shia community does not wholly support the BJP, citing the 2022 assembly elections where Shia-majority areas, Chowk and Central constituencies, elected Samajwadi Party candidates. He pointed out that in 2002, most of the Shias did not vote for the BJP candidate, and there is a historical account of Vajpayee’s defeat. In 1984, Lalji Tandon received only 35,000 votes, clearly indicating that the community was not entirely aligned with the BJP.

Rizvi further noted that in 2012, when the Samajwadi Party came to power, a prominent Shia cleric from Lucknow approached Mulayam Singh, resulting in the approval of the 13 Rajab holiday to commemorate the birthday of Hadrat Ali, the fourth Islamic caliph. He mentioned that other governments also worked in favour of the Shia community Since 2014, however, Shias have been inclined towards the BJP, although the party has not significantly addressed their issues. “Those who are close to BJP leaders have their work cut out for them, but on a national level, the problems of Shias remain unchanged,” he said.

Regarding dissatisfaction with the Samajwadi Party, Rizvi explained that allegations against party stalwart Azam Khan and the lathi charge on Shias, have been a point of contention. Before this incident, Azam Khan held Maulana Kalbe Jawad in high esteem. An incident at the airport where Khan carried Maulana Kalbe Jawad’s bag to the car and sent him home respectfully illustrates this. The lathi charge incident was allegedly orchestrated by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to discredit the Samajwadi Party.

Dr. Ammar Rizvi, former Congress leader and acting chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, highlighted the significance of understanding the direction of Lucknow’s Shia community. He reiterated that most of the Shias have historically supported the BJP for various reasons. He mentioned that during Kalyan Singh’s regime, Shia processions were revived, and Rajnath Singh arranged a direct flight from Lucknow to Najaf, although it was later discontinued due to low demand. Additionally, Rajnath Singh’s active participation in all Shia rites has made him popular among the community.

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