Jaffer Sharief Goes To The Doorsteps Of JD(S)
This is one development that the Congress never wanted to happen. One of the tallest Muslim leader and former Railway Minister CK Jaffer Sharief of Indira Gandhi era, has spoken against his party’s high command for denying him ticket from Bengaluru Central parliamentary constituency. This is not the first time that this veteran leader has shown his ire against his own party. Yet, what makes the difference this time is that he has openly embraced JD(S) leader and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. Sharief has gone to the extent of telling that Congress should not field a candidate against Gowda.
Sharief has not said in so many words that he will formally join JD(S), but the fact that he went to the doorsteps of Gowda and got himself garlanded by Kumaraswamy and others is enough to send the signal to Congress—that he is no longer available to the country’s oldest party. As usual, Gowda was all happy to receive Sharief. He said, “Sharief is the tallest leader of not only the Muslim community but of the entire country. We will give ticket to Sharief to contest from Mysore, if he is willing.” Sharief, on his part, described Gowda as “the champion of secularism and the most credible leader of the Third Front.” Both of them looked like the members of the “mutual admiration society”, heaping praises on each other.
Jaffer Sharief’s leaning towards JD(S) has sent shockwaves in the Muslim world in Karnataka. With the Muslim having more or less decided to vote en mass to Congress after the elevation of Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, it was a foregone conclusion that the Muslims would rally behind Congress. However, with this development of Sharief venting his ire against Congress and showing his inclination towards JD(S), the politics in general and Muslim society in particular have been suddenly in a state of flux.
The predicament of the Muslim community was explained very succinctly by one Mohammed Shafiullah of Tilaknagar, “Jaffer Sharief Saheb is our leader. He has served Congress for the last six decades. We all wanted to vote for Congress but with his exit now we are in a state of confusion. If we still vote for Congress, then we will have to sacrifice him, which we cannot. We have to vote JD(S), which does not win in our constituency. We do not know what to do.”
Farzana Almas Banu, a graduate, echoed the similar opinion: “Congress could have given ticket to Jaffer Sharief. He is an experienced leader. He was a very successful Minister for Railway. It was under his regime that the country saw uniguage system in a big way. Congress is unfair in denying him ticket. This has put us in a confused situation.” No wonder that this development of Jaffer Sharief, speaking against Congress and his leaning towards JD(S), has been music to the ears of BJP, which has started smelling a “huge success”. The calculation of the BJP leadership is that the exit of Sharief from Congress will make the Muslim minority also to follow him and with that large chunk of votes not going to Congress, it will enable BJP to win in most of the constituencies. “God helps those who help themselves,” was the remark made by senior BJP leader Ramachandra Gowda to this Jaffer Sharief development. He, however, refused to elaborate.
Muslims constitute about 10 per cent of the total electorate. Of the total 28 parliamentary constituencies, Muslims number around seven to nine per cent in each of the 28 parliamentary constituencies with an exception in districts such as Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur, Koppal, Bellary, Kolar, Tumkur, Dakshina Kannada and Mysore. In these districts, Muslims are slightly higher in number. If even for argument sake, Jaffer Sharief is able to wean away five per cent of the Muslim votes in each of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies, then BJP is going to be benefitted in a big way.
JD(S) too is going to be benefitted in the event of Muslims voting for Gowda’s party but it would not be sufficient to win the seats as its electoral base, as far as Lok Sabha election is concerned, is relatively weak when compared to Assembly. JD(S) will be benefitted in Hassan, Mandya, Kolar, Tumkur and Mysore, if it can get Muslim votes in a big way but in rest of the constituencies it is going to be BJP.
KEJRIWAL’S VISIT TO IT CAPITAL EVOKES INSIPID RESPONSE
The much-touted ‘storm’ supposed to be created by AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal in Bengaluru, the IT capital of India, evoked an insipid response with hardly a few thousands of cap-wearing AAP workers following their leader in scores of cars and hundreds of two-wheelers. Except for its die-hard followers, the aam aadmi (common man) hardly turned out both at the road show as well as at the public meeting held on March 16 at Freedom Park.
As is his usual second nature, Kejriwal took on the media at the Kempe Gowda international airport for being needlessly biased against him. And like a typical politician, Kejriwal denied of having targeted the media and argued that he was misquoted after taking his statement out of context. At the public meeting, which was largely attended by his followers, he was all fire against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on the issue of governance, development and corruption.
Interestingly, Kejriwal could see only corruption of Modi, mal-administration of Modi government and absence of development in Gujarat headed by Modi. Naturally, Kejriwal’s new supporter, Divya Hiremath quipped at the rally, “Has he confused Modi for Manmohan Singh and Congress-led UPA for BJP government in Gujarat? All that he is attributing is applicable to Manmohan Singh government but he is wrongly targeting Modi. I am disgusted by this blatant lie.”
Kejriwal’s modus operandi to raise funds for this ‘impoverished’ party also came in criticism from many quarters. His party’s local leaders had organised a “paid dinner” with Kejriwal at Rs 20,000 at a five star hotel. Anybody who wanted to have dinner and discussion with Kejriwal should pay that amount and register oneself. Hotel sources confided with Uday India that about 200 persons attended the dinner.
Those who are privy to the discussion confided that there was nothing much for Kejriwal to say in private to any of the “paid delegates” except to throw mud and spit fire against Modi and BJP. “There was nothing in specific terms about the future programmes and schemes. I came out of the dinner thoroughly disappointed. I think he has only television in his mind and not vision,” an AAP leader said.
Taking cue from the previous day’s stampede in Mumbai Church Gate station, Bengaluru city police had made elaborate security arrangements throughout the road show route as well as at Freedom Park. As is his usual gimmick, Kejriwal used a roadside Sulabh Shauchalaya near Hebbal to ease himself, which the local AAP leaders described as a big and unprecedented gesture. “He is the leader of the common man. So, he used the roadside urinals to attend to his nature’s call,” Narasimhaiah, an accountant in a private firm and a die-hard supporter of Kejriwal commented. His own colleague retorted, “Why? Was there no washroom in Kempe Gowda International Airport? Why all this dramabaazi?”
BJP Yuva Morcha of Bengaluru City unit, under the leadership of its President, Sapthagiri Gowda had brought out a 21-point question to Kejriwal. Said Sapthagiri Gowda, “Kejriwal has been a biggest disappointment to the common man. He started well, as an activist. Everbody thought he will transform himself to be the conscience-keeper of the nation. But he too got himself reduced to crass political ambition and a self-serving politician.”
The BJP youths have named Kejriwal as AK-49, given that he had been the Chief Minister of Delhi for 49 days and ran away as a coward. “The biggest factor that makes me to dislike him is that he spoke against the Republic Day event, which happens to be a national festival. He took oath as MLA and then as chief minister on Constitution, which came into being on Republic Day. This is what makes me say that he is a man without integrity and of a dubious character.” Sapthagiri recalled that even during the draconian days of Emergency between June 1975 and January 1977, the Opposition parties did not oppose the Independence Day and Republic Day. “Kejriwal is a passing phenomenon. He is going to be a victim of his own theatrics. You can fool all the people some time, you can fool some people all the time but cannot fool all the people all the time is a time-tested saying in English. This quite aptly fits Kejriwal,” this youth leader said. (SAHK)
But Congress leaders dismiss this theory of “mass exodus” of Muslims away from Congress as a wishful thinking. In its view, Sharief is no longer looked up with awe and respect, especially after he lobbied tickets for his son-in-law Yaseen and grandson, Rehman Sharief. The latter lost the May 2013 Assembly elections from Hebbal constituency in Bengaluru city to BJP. Strangely, none of Congress leaders dared to come on record to speak against Sharief, which shows the kind of importance and clout this veteran leader continues to hold on the community. Minutes after Sharief called on Gowda, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar along with other senior leaders held an emergency meeting to discuss the pros and cons of Sharief’s exit from Congress. One of the opinions was that the high command should intervene and placate Sharief by offering him the post of Governor and his supporters in the party structure. The view was that Sharief’s exit from Congress could cost the party dearly, something dreadful to the party, which is already facing defeat at the national level, according to the opinion poll.
The leaders were tight-lipped and refused to speak to the media emerging out of the meeting. Disappointment and fear were writ large on their face, which was an indication that things are not expected to be go in favour of the party in the event of Sharief’s exit from Congress. “I am hopeful that Jaffer Shariefji will continue to strengthen Congress and stand by us when we need him most. He is an experienced leader whose guidance is always welcome,” KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar told Uday India. But there was no strength in his words.
Congress was expecting to win about 16 of the total 28 seats though Siddaramaiah had said that his party would win about 20. With the return of former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to BJP, the conservative calculation is that Congress could win about 14 seats with 12 or 13 seats going to BJP’s kitty. But with the near-exit of Jaffer Sharief from Congress, it looks like that BJP’s number could increase to 18 or even 20.
With Yeddyurappa already in the field, who is going round the state on a whirlwind tour, this stormy petrel of Karnataka politics has successfully galvanised the party cadres and consolidated his hold over the Lingayat community, besides mobilising the farmers throughout the state. His decision to enter the fray from Shimoga has electrified the people and cadres in the neighbouring constituencies as well. Yeddyurappa’s entry into BJP and Jaffer Sharief’s exit from Congress are seen as significant developments and a game-changer for both BJP and Congress, albeit in a two diametrically opposite ways.
By SA Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru