Bengaluru: The Bengaluru riots have once again brought forth the rivalry between two influential Muslim leaders of Karnataka and led them to trade public potshots over each other’s alleged role in patronising radical forces.
Former Congress colleagues Zameer Ahmed Khan, an incumbent MLA, and Roshan Baig have both accused each other of being cosy with the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political front of the Kerala-based radical Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI).
The duel came after police arrested many SDPI members in connection with the 11 August violence, which killed three people and was allegedly triggered by a blasphemous Facebook post about Prophet Muhammad. The post was allegedly made by Naveen Kumar, the nephew of local Congress MLA Akhand Srinivas Murthy.
The exchange between Khan and Baig started with a tweet posted by the latter Sunday where he accused the Congress of “patronising” the SDPI. Alleging that the Congress had “patronised extreme radical organisations like SDPI” for political gains, the former Shivajinagar MLA said the “recent riots in Bengaluru have exposed the dark underbelly of local politics” in Karnataka.
The recent riots in Bengaluru has shed light on the dark underbelly of local politics. Here is my detailed statement on how the tacit political understanding between Congress and SDPI is now ruining the social harmony on a large scale. #Bengaluru #BangaloreViolence pic.twitter.com/VALJHhFh9q
— Roshan Baig (@rroshanbaig) August 16, 2020
The assembly constituency of Shivajinagar oversees the areas of DG Halli and KG Halli, where the violence took place. The “tacit understanding is now backfiring on the Congress since it legitimised such organisations”, Baig said.
Poor sections of minority communities should not be exploited by SDPI or Congress. Congress has been patronising SDPI for past 10 yrs & then they could not protect their own MLA. Congress is to be blamed for this incident: Roshan Baig, former K’taka minister on Bengaluru violence pic.twitter.com/1U4ubcAwzE
— ANI (@ANI) August 15, 2020
Khan hit back in a series of tweets Monday, saying Baig was making statements because he was scared he may face a police investigation in connection with the riots. He alleged the SDPI had contested the 2019 December bypolls in Shivajinagar at Baig’s behest.
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The bypolls were necessitated by the rebellion that hit the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government last year.
ಮೂರು ದಶಕಗಳಿಗಿಂತ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಕಾಲ ಕಾಂಗ್ರೆಸ್ ಪಕ್ಷದಲ್ಲಿದ್ದು ಮುಸ್ಲಿಮರ ಬಡತನ, ಅನಕ್ಷರತೆ, ನಿರುದ್ಯೋಗದಂತಹ ಮೂಲಭೂತ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಎಂದೂ ತಲೆಕೆಡಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳದೆ, ಅಮಾಯಕ ಮುಸ್ಲಿಮರನ್ನು ರಾಜಕೀಯ ಸ್ವಾರ್ಥಕ್ಕಷ್ಟೇ ಬಳಸಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದ @rroshanbaig ಅವರು ಈಗ ಮುಸ್ಲಿಮರ ಪರ ಕಣ್ಣೀರು ಹಾಕುತ್ತಿರುವುದು ತಮಾಷೆಯಾಗಿದೆ. 1/5
— B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan (@BZZameerAhmedK) August 17, 2020
“The serious question one needs to ask is, why did the SDPI contest the Shivajinagar assembly bypolls only in December? The SDPI never entered the fray wherever Baig was fighting the election… Baig should explain who fielded the SDPI to divide the minority votes and defeat the Congress,” he added.
Khan said it was Baig who used the SDPI vote bank to further his political interests. Now, when it seems to be “boomeranging on him”, he is trying to distance himself from the organisation, Khan added.
Both Baig and Khan have been trading barbs since the former’s exit from the Congress.
Congress sources said it was Khan’s March 2018 entry into the Congress from the Janata Dal (S) that led to Baig being sidelined.
Baig was expelled from the primary membership of the Congress for anti-party activities last year, including a scathing attack on Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal where he called him a “buffoon”. He subsequently became one of the Congress-JD(S) MLAs who were disqualified from the assembly over their rebellion. However, he was never inducted into the BJP like the others, allegedly because of his association with a big-ticket Ponzi scam.
Speaking to ThePrint, Baig said, right from the beginning, he had opposed the “Congress’ decision to align with the SDPI for votes”. Many observers believe that it was the Congress’ alleged understanding with the SDPI that led the BJP to sweep the coastal belt in the 2018 elections.
Baig claimed he warned the then chief minister Siddamramaiah and AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal, but it “was clear at that time that Khan was the more powerful Muslim leader in the party”.
This is not the first time that the two leaders have openly sparred with each other. During the peak of the IMA scam investigation, Baig claimed a “certain” Muslim leader had been spreading rumours among the aggrieved investors against him. Although he did not name the politician, Baig’s camp alleged Khan’s hand in it.
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