Mumbai: Jama Masjid Trustee Files Nomination For Contesting From Mumbai South Seat On BSP Ticket

Mumbai: Jama Masjid Trustee Files Nomination For Contesting From Mumbai South Seat On BSP Ticket

Khatib said he accepted the offer from the BSP to contest the elections on the party's ticket because the two major political alliances - the NDA and INDI Alliance have not fielded a Muslim candidate in any of the 48 parliamentary constituencies in the state.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Friday, May 10, 2024, 11:19 PM IST
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Mumbai: Should a trustee of a religious institution contest public elections? Will this lead to the politicisation of community trusts?

These are questions being raised after a trustee of the Jama Masjid, Mumbai's most important mosque, Shoaib Khatib, decided to contest the parliamentary elections for the Mumbai South seat as a candidate for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Khatib said he accepted the offer from the BSP to contest the elections on the party's ticket because the two major political alliances - the NDA and INDI Alliance have not fielded a Muslim candidate in any of the 48 parliamentary constituencies in the state.

Khatib said he is not breaking any national or trust laws. "Our trust's constitution does not say a trustee cannot contest public elections. Nothing in our country's Constitution stops me from contesting the elections. Our country's Constitution has a rule that judges and government officials cannot contest elections," said Khatib.

However, some members of the Muslim community think that trustees and other officials of mosques, dargahs, religious schools, and educational institutions should resign from the institutions if they decide to contest elections. "Their entry into politics can affect, directly or indirectly, the interest of community institutions," said Saeed Hameed, a journalist.

Saeed Hameed said that it is the right of every citizen to contest elections. "But there are exceptions. Sitting judges, magistrates, and public servants cannot contest elections unless they resign from their posts. This is the government code. Shouldn't there be a community code then?

Office bearers of community institutions should not contest elections as this can politicise the institutions. The trust will not allow its Imams to contest elections, so how do they permit their trustees to fight elections," he asked, pointing out that there have been instances in the 1960s and 1970s when educationists like Maulana Ziauddin Bukhari, a Muslim League politician who later became a member of the Legislative Assembly, and G M Banatwala, a seven-time Member of Parliament, had resigned from their institutions after having decided to contest public elections.

However, community leaders said there have been examples of politicians who have led educational and other community institutions. Sohail Khandwani, trustee of the Haji Ali and Mahim's Makhdoom Ali Mahimi dargahs, said that the decision to vote and contest elections is an individual right. "Anybody can exercise their constitutional right to contest an election. I am a trustee of a religious institution, but I am also a builder by profession. Contesting an election is my right but I cannot encash on my trusteeship in a community institution to seek votes," said Khandwani.

Jama Masjid, established in the late 19th century, owns vast properties in the city, and the possibility of a trustee holding a post in the government could have repercussions in the management of trust properties, as some community members have pointed out.

About accusations that he will divide minority votes in an area where Muslims form nearly a quarter of the voter population, Khatib said, "If these parties feel that I have been propped up to divide votes, why did they not field a Muslim candidate? The INDI Alliance has fielded the same candidate who had won twice on an NDA ticket," said Khatib.

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