Naseer Ahmed: Congress’ Silent Sentinel Muslims returned to Congress largely due to his meticulous efforts
Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa’s Lingayat factor defeated BJP and enabled Congress to register its victory. But the “cutting-edge” role played by the Muslim minorities ensured decisive victory for as many as 21 Congress candidates in the May 5 elections to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
A meticulous look at the pattern of voting reveals this fact. Wherever the Congress candidates have managed to get huge margin it is because of the solid backing of the Muslim voters. The credit for changing the Muslim mass psyche and persuade them to return to their “natural habitat” (Congress) largely goes to Naseer Ahmed, Congress MLC, who hails from the backward KGF taluk of Kolar district.
In his capacity as the president of the minority department of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), Naseer Ahmed silently and meticulously went about in his task of bringing Muslim minorities back to Congress, who had tryst with the Janata Dal (S) too for some time. He held as many as 50 closed-door meetings with Muslim intellectuals and academicians, the cream of his community in order to get an insight into their thinking and their views on Congress.
“I made them realise that the Congress is their natural habitat and the futility of backing pseudo-secular parties like the JD (S). BJP is a disaster, not only to minorities but also for the entire state. It was after a great deal of persuasion that we could bring about a change in the psyche of the Muslim masses. The result is there for all of us to see. Had not Muslims voted for Congress in large number, we would not have got complete majority,” Naseer Ahmed said, while speaking to this correspondent.
Surprisingly he commands a lot of respect from the Muslim clergy (imams) across the state, which became evident when about 200 imams from all over the state congregated in Bengaluru a week before the elections, at the behest of Naseer Ahmed. His logical argument during the three-hour closed-door meeting was that the “tactical voting” by Muslims would lead to fractured mandate and such a situation would be disastrous for the minority community in particular and for the entire state in general. Naseer Ahmed’s argument went down well with the imams, who played a vital role in the victory of the Congress.
A successful industrialist, who owns a chain of export garment unit in Kolar and Bengaluru, Naseer Ahmed has been a loyal and dedicated Congress worker since late 70s. His innate talent for organising the youth and dynamic leadership qualities was recognised by none other than the late Indira Gandhi, who directed the KPCC to give him ticket to contest the 1983 Assembly elections. Though he was unsuccessful, Naseer took it up as a challenge and went on to contribute to strengthen the Congress, not only in Kolar district but also in the entire state.
As Minister for Industries in the Ministry headed by S Bangarappa between 1992 and 1994, Naseer Ahmed was largely instrumental in reviving many sick industries, especially in the small and medium sector.
“The plight of youth due to unemployment was the turning point for me in my life. I know what poverty is because I myself have suffered. I decided to start garment industry to provide employment to semi-skilled and un-skilled boys and girls from rural places,” Naseer Ahmed said. He has to his credit providing employment to about 10,000 boys and girls in his three garment factories. True to his secular nature, about 90 per cent of the workforce is non-Muslim. “Unemployment and poverty have no religion,” he says.
As MLC, Naseer Ahmed has taken up a number of pro-people issues and highlighted the problem of unemployment, drinking water and migration of people from villages to urban centres in search of jobs.
When asked how he finds time for his industries as well as politics, this soft-spoken leader said, “Politics through Congress is my mission to serve people; industry is my livelihood. I need to strike a balance between the two if I have to be successful in both the places. But at any point in time, if Soniaji and Rahulji ask me to take up any responsibility, either in the government or in the party, I am ready. Industry has reached a stage where it can go on its own.”
By S A Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru