he newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which will contest in the Delhi Assembly elections for the first time, is trying to build up a base among Muslims by contacting leaders and activists from the community. The party last week inducted Irfanullah Khan, a former president of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students' union, and Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a renowned activist, to campaign for it in Muslim-dominated areas. AAP workers say that they are also in touch with the alumni of AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia to reach out to Muslims. Jamia teachers and students say that some of them have agreed to canvass for AAP.
"Essentially, we don't believe in community-specific politics, but we are going door-to door in all Muslim-dominated areas such as Jamia Nagar, Old Delhi, Seelampur, Jaffrabad etc., with the message that AAP is the only alternative political force which may help Muslims come out of the frustration generated by mainstream parties such as the Congress. You know that in Delhi, the fight is between the Congress and the BJP. Muslims will not vote for the BJP and the reality of the Congress has been exposed to the community in the form of unfulfilled promises. Muslims will have to turn to AAP to break the status quo," said Amal Sharma, coordinator of AAP for Okhla.
Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who has started to work for the party, said that AAP will contact everyone in Muslim localities, ranging from mosque imams to hawkers, students and teachers. "Everyone will be approached. There is much resentment among Muslims against the incumbent Congress. It's time Muslims reposed faith in grassroots alternatives like the AAP," said Ahmed. Zia Chaudhary, an AAP worker from Zakir Nagar, told this correspondent that Rahat Mehmood Chaudhary, a close aide of Jama Masjid's Imam Ahmed Bukhari, and Ilyas Azmi, a former Bahujan Samaj Party MP from Uttar Pradesh, have joined the AAP.
"It's like the anti-Congress waves of 1977 and 1989. Muslims should unite to cash in on this political opportunity by supporting an alternative force like the Aam Admi Party," said Azmi.
But political observers like Jamia Nagar-based journalist Kubool Ahmed say that AAP's presence is limited only to the posters and some volunteers and that it will have to work hard to break into the Congress' Muslim votes. "Even after the Batla House verdict, Muslims will not abandon Congress. Take the case of Jamia Nagar MLA Asif Mohammed Khan, who became a leader in the area only after raising the Batla House encounter and abusing the Congress. But now he has joined the Congress. Besides, AAP's presence is limited to some stray idealists or activists. "