BJP - AAP spar over former Delhi MLA Shoaib Iqbal
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that Iqbal, who once wanted to send Arvind Kejriwal to jail and opposed AAP’s Jan Lokpal Bill, has been inducted into the party.
Former Congress MLA Shoaib Iqbal joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday. Unlike other inductions, it was sort of a private affair. Iqbal joined the party in the presence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan at the CM’s residence. Along with him, two other Congress councillors - Aley Mohammed Iqbal and Sultana Abadi - also joined the party.
The photo of the induction ceremony was later shared on Twitter. While AAP might be eyeing the Muslim vote bank in the old city, Iqbal’s entry into the party has given the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fresh ammunition.
It has also triggered a war of words between the BJP and AAP. BJP national spokesperson, Sambit Patra lambasted AAP, accusing it of being part of the band of opposition parties who “in the name of protest against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act)” are doing “competitive politics of appeasement.”
Former MLA and Dy Speaker of Delhi Vidhan Sabha Shoaib Iqbal, MCD Councillors from INC Aley Mohammed Iqbal and Sultana Abad joined Aam Aadmi Party today in the presence of CM @ArvindKejriwal pic.twitter.com/AZ3fehsqH9— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) January 9, 2020
Patra said that AAP had roped in Iqbal and his son Mohammed Iqbal for its “petty political gains” and “in order to appease" the Muslim vote bank. The BJP leader also said that Iqbal has several charges pressed against him including murder, rioting, causing grievous hurt, and robbery.
Targeting the AAP leadership, he added that Iqbal is known for making statements against Kejriwal. Patra said the five-time former MLA had said in the past that “he would send Kejriwal to jail.”
He accused Iqbal’s son of "threatening" Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the anti-CAA protest at the Jama Masjid. Patra played a video of the Jama Masjid protest in which Mohammad Iqbal can be heard saying, “Listen, Narendra Modi, we are ready to lay down our heads but we will not allow any encroachment in the Sharia law.”
The BJP spokesperson continued to attack AAP, saying, “These joining have exposed that whether riots happen during the anti-CAA protest, whether Hindu-Muslim divide is created or whether someone talks of sidelining the Constitution and pitches for the Sharia law, they (AAP) will rope in such leaders if it helps them appease the Muslim vote bank.”
These allegations triggered an angry response from AAP. The Delhi deputy CM and senior AAP leader, Manish Sisodia, said that as far as Iqbal’s comments against Delhi CM Kejriwal are concerned, it is a matter between AAP and Iqbal.
“If AAP leaders or anyone joining the AAP are criminals or murder accused and are roaming freely then the BJP should be ashamed of themselves,” Sisodia said while responding to the media. “For the past six years, the Delhi Police is under their control. The law and order is under the Centre’s jurisdiction. Are you saying that the BJP will talk about a murder accused only when he joins AAP or else they will allow such accused to roam freely?” Sisodia added. He further added that if the BJP is not able to handle Delhi Police well, it should hand them over to the Delhi government.
Iqbal's history of attacking AAP and Kejriwal
While the AAP might reject the BJP’s allegations, Iqbal has a history of attacking AAP convenor Kejriwal. In 2013, during Kejriwal’s 49-day stint, Iqbal had opposed the Jan Lokpal Bill which back then was considered one of the core issues of AAP’s political plank. Iqbal, who was a Janata Dal-United (JDU) MLA in 2013, had demanded Kejriwal’s resignation after the introduction of the bill.
In fact, Iqbal is also known for his comment, “Kejriwal should be sent to Tihar jail, if elected to power I will ensure Kejriwal goes to Tihar jail.”
The former Matia Mahal MLA’s induction in the party is being seen as an attempt to consolidate its Muslim vote bank, at least in the old city. The minority community in Delhi is considered a traditional voter base of the Congress party. In 2015, a large chunk of this vote bank had shifted to AAP. However, during the Lok Sabha elections, the minority vote bank was divided between the Congress and AAP.