Once an ‘under-study’ of Congress strongman Ahmed Patel and now Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s suave Muslim face Aasifa Khan says it is lack of leadership in the State Congress and her frustration that few things related to Gujarat moved in New Delhi that drew her to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“There is no decentralisation of power in the Congress in the State, while Ahmed-bhai Patel has his hands full,” Khan, in her forties, asserts.
“I have all respect for Ahmed-bhai but he is too busy. Because of this, issues related to Gujarat are either left behind, forgotten or remain unattended,” Khan told The Hindu in an interview, speaking fluent English, a trait for which Gujarat politicians are not known for.
“I felt helpless, stifled. As against that, even a foot-soldier of the BJP could do much more than me. People in my area were wondering I could do little despite I knowing him well,” she said, claiming that Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had even offered her a Lok Sabha ticket in 2009.
“But eventually, the ticket did not work out,” Khan said, outright denying that this was the reason for her quitting the Congress. And in the same vein, added that she had not joined the BJP expecting a ticket. She says she was offered the membership of Censor Board in 2005 when Sharmila Tagore was the chairperson by Patel, but this too did not materialise.
Khan hails from Bharuch district of Gujarat, to which Ahmed Patel also belongs, and was handpicked by him as a national spokesperson of Congress’ women wing and also of State Congress.
When told that Narendra Modi himself faces a serious charge of keeping all powers with him while the party works only as his back-office, Khan, who has worked as a journalist in local Gujarati newspaper Sandesh and briefly for Zee News, says, “I have seen things working here.”
Asked how could a journalist, a woman and a Muslim think of joining the BJP, Aasifa says, “My work as a journalist, my sensitivity as a woman and my views as a liberal Muslim are the reasons.”
“As a journalist, a woman and a Muslim and the milieu I lived in, I had to do a balancing act. Learning to balance my stories to ensure that I am not partial to any community groomed me,” she says with a strong sense of conviction.
When asked if she and her community had excused the Modi Government for the 2002 riots, she says, “Every Muslim, every Hindu feels it was unfortunate that it had to happen when he was ruling the state. But I must tell you that justice is being delivered under his very rule, he is not creating any hindrances anywhere.”
“This CM is time-tested, there is all-round growth under his rule, there is peace,” declares Aasifa, who had left her MA in English literature studies to plunge into journalism. “I am MA-I”, she smiles.
“I myself went to the Chief Minister, who had given me appointment for only five minutes; but the meeting stretched for 55 minutes. He is a development man and a different man than the image I had,” Khan, whose role in the party will be to interact with the media, says.