Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: The Janata Dal (Secular) has taken a leap forward in exhibiting its secular philosophy by appointing a Muslim leader, Merajuddin Patel, as the Karnataka president of the party.

The 51-year-old former Minister from the backward district of Bidar is the second Muslim political leader of the State to take charge as a full-fledged president of the State unit of a political party. The former Union Minister, C.M. Ibrahim, has been the only other Muslim leader to have served as the president of a political party. The State unit of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party too have a fair share of Muslim leaders, but none of them has been appointed as head of the State unit of the party. With the appointment of Mr. Patel as the State president, it is quite obvious that the JD (S) leadership would like to send across a signal that the party was back to strengthening its secular philosophy. The appointment has come about at a time when serious doubts were being raised on whether the JD (S) would indeed transfer power to the BJP in October.

Known for his good oratory in both Kannada and Urdu, Mr. Patel led the election campaign for the JD (S) in the northern districts of the State, particularly the Hyderabad-Karnataka area.

He has been in the Janata Parivar parties all his life and shifted from the Janata Dal (United) to the JD(S) when the latter was formed and remained a loyalist of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda.