Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a prominent but hard line Muslim organisation which was till recently opposed to participating in electoral politics, is likely to launch a national political party. Jamaat leaders say that they are talking to with "like-minded" Muslim and non-Muslim organisations in the country to form an alternative political force. They also insist that the proposed political venture will be outside the Jamaat fold and only Jamaat cadres will be allowed to be part of it. But sources say that the party will have the full backing of the Jamaat.
It was during its annual conference in Delhi last week that the Jamaat decided to enter mainstream politics, say sources. "The people attending the conference argued that without being part of the power structure in India, they could not implement their Islamist agenda completely. Hence, the plan to launch a political party with the weaker sections of society (read OBCs and Dalits) was given a serious thought," a source who attended the conference said.
Confirming the Jamaat's political ambition, its chief Syed Jalaluddin Umri said, "We have discussed to be part of political forces that may provide an alternative to the present political set-up in the country. Jamaat will not form any political outfit itself, but we will allow our functionaries to join forces with those who can work for the underprivileged and weaker sections of society." "Since almost all mainstream political parties work for the interest of the elite, there is space for an alternative political party that can serve society as per the aspirations of its marginalised sections." Umri added. He hinted that the planned outfit might be launched by January or February 2011 and that the Jamaat is holding talks with political groups for this purpose.
Jamaat, the largest cadre-based Muslim organisation in India, did not allow its workers to take part in elections earlier. "But now our cadres participate in civic polls and many of them have been elected in panchayat elections in states like Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal," said S.Q.R. Ilyas, the secretary of Jamaat. But will Jamaat shed its committed Islamist agenda to participate in active politics? "Not at all. The cadres, who will participate in the polls, will also continue to work for Jamaat," said Jalaluddin. Umri.