Kolkata: Sixty-five-year-old Nurur Rahman Barkati, knows the route to make it to the headlines. The controversial cleric, who had been sacked from his post of being the Shahi Imam of the iconic Tipu Sultan Masjid, in an interview to Bengali newspaper, neither accepted nor denied the possibility of joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The news of Barkati, the man who openly criticized BJP and the man whom BJP abhorred, being roped in shocked many.
The probable induction of Barkati comes at the time, when two Muslim women associated with instant talaq case—Ishrat Jahan, the petitioner and her lawyer Nazia Elahi Khan joined BJP in Bengal, seems to be real.
This possibility has left many in shock. Taslima Nasrin, the author in exile, from Bangladesh, reacted on the development with very sharp tweet, “Times of India’s Bengali newspaper ‘ei samay’ published a news yesterday, Imam Barkati the Muslim fatwabaz fanatic may join BJP. Barkati said last year: ‘Muslims who work for BJP will be beaten up’. Now the question is who will beat him up?”
However, when eNewsroom contacted the controversial cleric, he said, “The question of me joining BJP doesn’t arise as of now. There has been no discussion with any BJP leaders regarding me joining them. I have always been a supporter of Mamata and will always be.”
On being reminded about his comments made to the media, he said, “See, I don’t do things under disguise. The day, I will be making a political move I will be calling a press conference and declaring it. You know very well, how competent I am at calling such press meets.” He then hinted to his controversial exit from the imamat of Tipu Sultan Masjid, from where he had decreed many fatwas, which made him earn the title of the fatwa cleric, added, “I have been enjoying my break till now. I am a 65 and at the moment am not interested in contesting any election.”
On being asked that could his unceremonious sacking from his citadel and Mamata Banerjee’s silence, be the reason for him to join BJP, he said, “Not at all. I have no bitterness for her.” On being asked about this proximity to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain, he said, “That was when Mamata was with NDA. I will go wherever she goes.”
West Bengal BJP, has had to face a major embarrassment when Manju Basu, former TMC MLA was announced by BJP as its candidate for Noapara bypoll, denied being BJP’s candidate. She even declared that she is with TMC and Mamata Banerjee only.
However, those who know Barkati from close quarters feel that he is testing the water in both the parties. The mutawalli of Tipu Sultan Masjid, Anwar Ali, said, “He knows how to play his cards. He is using media to give two different statements, to stay in news. I know him from close quarters, I guess, in doing so he is testing the water of both BJP and TMC. At the moment the ruling party has distanced itself from him. So, by making such comments he gets to check if he can worm back to TMC.”
He then added, “But let me tell you, there is a strong chance of him joining the saffron brigade.” According to a source, it’s not just the fatwa cleric, but many known Muslim faces and clerics are on the list of people that BJP is trying to rope in. Needless to say, with the elections approaching, the recruitment of Muslims in BJP in Bengal is gaining momentum.