The Hindustan Times
New Delhi, 31 August 1996
21. Bihar BJP’s first-ever Muslim
leader emerges
HT Correspondent

PATNA, Aug. 30 - A growing realisation in the BJP that the support of the minorities may prove crucial to its hopes of ruling the country appears to have set the stage for the emergence of the party’s first-ever top ranking Muslim leader in Bihar.

If things work out to a plan, Prof. Azfar Shamshi - State chief of the party’s Minority Front for the past three years - may soon be rubbing shoulders with the top brass of the Bihar BJP. Already, the party leadership has been sending out signals that it rates the ‘ideologically correct’ professor rather highly and has high hopes of him.

In fact, if one were to go by the laudatory references of State BJP president Ashwini Kumar and veteran party leader Kailashpati Mishra to Prof. Shamshi’s intellectual proficiency and leadership qualities, the 35-year old Munger-based college teacher is expected to play a vital role in allaying Muslim misgivings about the BJP.

Although Prof. Shamshi has been waiting in the wings for quite some time, the unexpected success with which he organised the first ever ideological orientation camp of the BJP Minority Front earlier this week at Madhupur, seems to have impressed the party leadership and catapulted the young leader into the reckoning for greater things.

It would be naive to ascribe a mere coincidence Prof. Shamshi’s prominent presence besides Mr. Kailashpati Mishra and Mr. Ashwini Kumar at the Press conference convened at the State BJP headquarters here yesterday to announce the induction into the party of former Congress MPs C.P. Thakur and Kunwar Ram.

In fact, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Mishra made it a point to ensure that the BJP Minority Front chief shared the limelight with them in almost equal measures and made him answer several of the newsmen’s queries directly.

Besides, the shape of things to come is also indicated by the party’s claim to having about 40,000 Muslims on its rolls in the State and talk of 3,000 active member delegates attending the Minority Front’s first-time State-level convention here in December.

What makes Prof. Shamshi the BJP’s man of the hour is that he has impeccable credentials not just as an adherent but even an exponent of the Sangh Parivar philosophy. A powerful orator, the youthful professor’s grasp of the Hindutva ideology is so clear he could put to shame a well trained RSS pracharak.

Drawn towards the Jana Sangh and its allied organisations for their nationalistic views since his early teens, Prof. Shamshi has weathered many a storm blowing from within his community for his political ideas and activities.

On Dec. 6, 1992 - the day the Babri demolition took place - he was present in Ayodhya doing “Rashtra seva” as he calls it and was promptly ostracised by the Muslim community in his home town of Munger. Bombs were thrown at his house, his wedding engagement was broken off and he had to remain underground for over a month to save his life.

However, the community’s strong disapproval of Prof. Shamshi’s actions metamorphosised into some kind of a reverence for him and his family in 1994 when his father died in Mecca while doing Haj-e-Akbar there and fulfilled the most cherished of Muslim dreams of being buried at the holy city.

“This divine benediction in the best Islamic traditions not only caused my community to accept me back whole-heartedly but even conferred on us something akin to celebrity status,” explained the Jamalpur College teacher. Confirmation o t is came next year when as BJP nominee for the Munger Town Assembly seat - the only Muslim to be fielded by the party in the 1995 elections - the professor secured about 30,000 votes.

The figures represented the highest number of votes the Jana Sangh or the BJP has secured in an election for this seat since Independence. The Professor dismisses his narrow defeat to factors other than the popular support he had secured and says he lost no sleep over it.

Prof. Shamshi’s eloquent espousal of the BJP concepts of nationalism and secularism should be music to the ears of the party top brass. Among other things, he believes Muslims need to be wary of hardliners and confrontationists within the community instead of harbouring misgiving about Hindutva.

“Hindutva imbibes the finest Indian traditions of liberalism and humanism and secularism will survive only till the spirit of Hindutva exists. So Muslims have a stake in the longevity of Hindutva”, argues the emerging “minority” face of the BJP.  He insists the Muslims at large will swear by this position some day.

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