Welfare Party of India to strive for high moral standards, inclusiveness

Has the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind acquired a political wing? The rich symbolism at the launch on Monday of India's newest political party, the Welfare Party of India, suggested as much — with speeches embellished by rousing Urdu shayari (poetry) and recitations from the Quran, and a cheering, applauding audience made up largely of volunteers from the Jamaat.

Two key office-bearers of the new party are from the JIH — Mujtaba Farooque, who is the president of WPI, is also a secretary of the JIH. Similarly, WPI's senior general secretary, SQR Ilyas, is a Majlis-e-Shoora member of the JIH. Journalists at a media meet held by the new party also pointed out that of the 16 office-bearers announced, 11 were Muslims.

Mr. Ilyas admitted his dual presence in the JIH and WPI. He said the Jamaat, which had till now prohibited its members from joining political parties, had lifted the ban enabling him and others to float the new party. But he insisted that the WPI would act as a secular political formation, dedicated to the interests of the poor and the marginalised. Over time it would reflect India's plural character, with members admitted from different caste, communities and regions. But most importantly, the party would represent “alternative politics, emerging as the voice of the voiceless, as a hope for equity and justice, and as a harbinger of new India.”

Mr. Ilyas read out the party's core objectives, including high moral standards and ethical values, inclusiveness and equity and empowerment of the weak.

When it was pointed out that every political party made pretty much the same promises, Mr. Ilyas said, “Only those individuals will be allowed into the party who can prove by word and deed their commitment to the values and vision of the party.”

In a magazine interview given last week, Mr. Farooque explained the rationale for the new party and defended its essentially Muslim character: “Muslims in India are the second largest majority ... all sections and communities have organised themselves politically … and are bargaining and reaping the benefits of power, whereas look at the Muslims, they always believed in the secular parties of the nation but [were] always treated as vote bank … .”