Congress leader whose ‘Muslim university’ claim powered BJP campaign expelled
DEHRADUN: Aqeel Ahmed, the Uttarakhand Congress vice president, whose claim that party leader Harish Rawat has agreed to set up a ‘Muslim university’ in Uttarakhand was used as ammunition by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election campaign, has been expelled from the party for six years, a Congress leader announced on Tuesday.
Aqeel Ahmed was served a show cause notice for making baseless statements in the media but he he kept making the statements again and again, Uttarakhand general secretary Mathura Dutt Joshi said.
“So the party decided to take disciplinary action against him. He has been expelled from the party’s primary membership for six years”, Joshi said.
Aqeel Ahmed first made the claim after withdrawing his nomination from Sahaspur seat in Dehradun, insisting that he agreed to step aside after speaking with Harish Rawat and getting an assurance that Uttarakhand will get a “Muslim university” when the party wins the elections. The Congress fielded Aryendra Sharma from Sahaspur, a seat that was among the 47 won by the BJP to return to power.
Aqeel Ahmed’s statement was immediately picked up by the BJP and cited as evidence of what the party described as the Congress’s appeasement politics. It was a point that was replayed on loop. BJP leaders said the Congress wants to set up the university in the land of Gods, the Ganga. Uttarakhand has a 13.9 % Muslim population.
Addressing a virtual rally in the runup to the February 14 elections, PM Modi contrasted the BJP’s efforts to speed up development with the Congress’s priorities. “On the other hand, the Congress is putting all its force to push back the state to the 20th century. It is evident with what they are promising to do. How dare they even think of speaking about such university, that too without any shame and by thumping their chest? This is the proof of their appeasement politics,” PM Modi said on February 8.
The Muslim university claim was repeatedly rebutted by the Congress but it was too late as BJP leaders kept on quoting Aqeel Ahmed. In an interview, chief minister Pushkar Siingh Dhami told HT: “In Devbhoomi, they (Congress) are not talking about setting up hospitals, schools, roads, railway lines, but about setting up a Muslim university here. The people of Devbhoomi will give a befitting reply on February 14”.