Riding solo: the challenge of being Amanatullah Khan

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Amanatullah Khan being produced at Tis Hazari court in New Delhi, on May 12.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Amanatullah Khan being produced at Tis Hazari court in New Delhi, on May 12. | Photo Credit: PTI

Two-time Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Okhla, 48-year-old Amanatullah Khan, the prominent Muslim face of AAP, is often seen as a staunch advocate of the minority community even as his party maintains silence or takes contrary stands on some of these issues.

Take for instance the bulldozer drive led by the BJP-governed South civic body at Madanpur Khadar on May 12. 

After Mr. Khan was arrested for allegedly obstructing the demolition drive in the area, which has a sizeable Muslim population, the party did not issue any statement in his support. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia did not even post a single tweet on Mr. Khan’s arrest.

The day Mr. Khan was arrested, AAP’s chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj held a press conference, though on a different subject. 

AAP’s silence

Mr. Bhardwaj did not talk about the arrest of his party’s MLA till reporters asked him about it. Subsequently, he decried the “hooliganism” of the BJP. Asked whether Mr. Khan was being targeted for being a Muslim, Mr. Bhardwaj said, “The BJP files FIR against anyone from AAP.”

Notably, the response offered by AAP spokesperson did not make it to the statement issued by the party later in the day.

On May 13, as a trial court granted bail to Mr. Khan, AAP issued a statement in his support but it did not have the name of any AAP leader.

A senior AAP leader said: “The BJP wants us to be seen as openly supporting Muslims on different issues to be able to portray us as anti-Hindu and consolidate the Hindu votes.”

“But by now everyone knows what the BJP is trying to do and what we are doing and it is not going to affect our Muslim voter base,” he added.

The AAP leader also said that Mr. Khan had the support of the top leadership of the party. 

Recurring phenomenon

The Madanpur Khadar episode was not the only instance when AAP maintained its distance from Mr. Khan. 

When the Okhla MLA participated in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in 2019-2020 at Shaheen Bagh, Mr. Kejriwal and other senior AAP leaders stayed away from it.

On August 8 last year, when videos of an event in Jantar Mantar went viral, in which slogans calling for violence against Muslims were raised, the party and its chief did not speak on the issue, while Mr. Khan pursued the matter and wrote a letter to the police to take action against the accused.

Moreover, last month, Mr. Khan took on the BJP for carrying out demolition drive in Muslim dominated areas during the holy month of Ramzan. The AAP leader accused the Union Home Minister Amit Shah of harassing a particular community through these drives. 

On the same issue, AAP did not offer any support to Mr. Khan. Instead, the party, including the CM and the Deputy CM, criticised the BJP for threatening to push lakhs of people on to the streets by demolishing their homes and shops.

Rohingya issue

Mr. Khan has also not shied away from voicing his support for UNHCR card-holding Rohingya refugees, who have been at the crosshairs of the BJP’s bulldozer drives. 

AAP’s official reaction, on most occasions when the BJP has accused it of shielding Rohingya and Bangladeshi immigrants, has been to blame the influx of the migrants on the BJP given that the border security is under the Centre’s control.

As AAP continues its tightrope walk of not antagonising the majority Hindus, especially as it eyes the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year, Mr. Khan may have more challenging days ahead as the representative of his party’s minority constituency.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2022 4:53:03 pm |