In this Idea Exchange moderated by Abantika Ghosh of The Indian Express, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind general secretary and former Rajya Sabha MP Maulana Mahmood Madani says he sees no harm in religious leaders expressing political views, explains why Priyanka would have done a better job for the Congress, stands by his remark on the Gujarat chief minister refusing to wear the skull cap, and questions the tag stuck on him of being pro-Modi
Abantika Ghosh: You have said that the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind is a religious organisation, but its workers can support political parties. You have decided to go to Varanasi. Is the Jamiat involved in this move or is it an individual’s decision?
The Jamiat is not just a religious organisation but a social one as well. Jamiat cannot support any political party. But its workers and leaders are free to support and join political parties. If I go to Varanasi and support or oppose any leader or party, it will be an individual decision and not that of the organisation. People allege that the Jamiat is the Congress’ B team because the organisation’s senior leaders have been affiliated to the Congress and have been members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha from the party. Our leaders and workers are also in the BSP, SP, Left and other parties.
Abantika Ghosh: Earlier, you had supported Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s decision to not wear the skull cap. How will you oppose him now?
It has been more than two years since the charge of being a Modi supporter was slapped on me. There are three instances. Last year, there were municipal elections in Gujarat. There are a few wards in Jamnagar with 100% Muslim residents and the Congress and BJP had fielded Muslim candidates there. All 21 Muslim wards were won by the BJP and I had said that Muslims have voted for the BJP. But my statement was taken out of context. Secondly, when I went to Gujarat, due to threat perception, the ministry of home affairs gave me Z-plus security cover. People cooked up stories saying I was a state guest. The third instance was when I was asked about Modi’s refusal to wear the skull cap. I believe that in Indian politics, the so-called secular parties — whenever I say ‘so called’, people say that I have become a Modi supporter — whatever they have done is only symbolic. They