Saturday, June 9, 2007

Malegaon deal: Cong-NCP tries to win over IMCP

Mufti Mohammed Ismail (above)is the chief imam of Malegaon's Jama mosque.

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Congress and NCP are putting intense pressure on Indian Muslim Congress Party, a group of religious and community leaders that has emerged as the single largest party in the civic polls, ever since it talked of forming a coalition with Shiv Sena to rule the corporation.

IMCP has emerged as the leading player after the recently-held Malegaon municipal polls, but remains short of a majority. The outfit has been in talks with Sena on the issue of sharing power since the election results were declared on May 28. Sena chief Bal Thackeray, on his part, has given the nod to tie up with IMCP. But Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), the other contenders, have also been discussing the idea of joining hands.

State Congress chief Prabha Rao has tried to open a line of communication with the IMCP head, 46-yr-old Mufti Mohammed Ismail. Sources said Rao called up Mufti Ismail on Tuesday night and asked him to join hands with the local Congress unit.

Mufti Ismail told TOI that he had made it clear to Rao that IMCP was looking for support from the secular parties in order to retain control of the corporation. But if Congress tried to use ‘under-hand’ means to take charge and appoint the mayor, Mufti Ismail said, his party would make them ‘pay for it in the assembly polls.’

Mufti said, “Prabha Rao called me up and asked me to form a majority with the help of Congress. I told her clearly that as we won the maximum seats, the mayor would be from our party.’’ He also clarified that IMCP would not stop negotiations with Sena in its bid to form a coalition.

The three-month-old IMCP, also known as the Third Front, had bagged 27 seats in the 72-member elections. Congress had 15 seats and the Nihal Ahmed-led JD(Secular) could manage only 12. Shiv Sena bagged seven seats while Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena won two.

Malegaon’s Congress MLA Shaikh Rasheed, whose son Asif (27) has already been a mayor between 2005-2007—a period which saw brewing discontentment among residents of the textile township due to deterioration of civic services. This time, Nihal Ahmed wants his daughter Shan-e-Hind (25) to be deputy mayor.

With Congress seeking to wrest control of the Rs 120-crore civic corporation, the IMCP coalition is keen to ensure that the township gets a new set of people to govern it. For this, it is willing to forge an alliance with Sena despite ideological differences. “It’s a matter of trust. We are negotiating with Sena only for the development of Malegaon,’’ said Mufti.

Deputy chief minister R R Patil has also tried to woo IMCP by assuring Mufti Ismail that he will speak to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and ensure Congress-NCP’s support for the Third Front. It’s a situation that has landed the Mufti in a dilemma.

In one of his election rallies, he had said, “Voting for NCP is a bigger sin than committing suicide.’’ Now, Malegaon’s residents are debating on whether he will go with Congress-NCP or prefer to join hands with Sena.
Petitions seek stay on mayoral polls

Nineteen candidates of Janata Dal and four of NCP have filed petitions in a Malegaon sessions court asking for a stay on the June 15 mayoral polls. The petitions, filed through advocate Azeem Khan, have argued that IMCP’s election rallies were organised along religious lines. They also said prayers were offered at the start and end of each rally. TNN

(The Times of India, June 9, 2007)

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