Lucknow: Peace Party chief Mohammed Ayub has said his party has no enemy and is open to joining hands with the NDA, the INDIA bloc and the BSP for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
This is in contrast to the former MLA’s statement last year that the BJP, which leads the NDA, is an “enemy” of Muslims and that the Peace Party will never support the saffron party because “we cannot go with the enemy”.
Asked if the BJP is no longer untouchable for him, Ayub sought to draw a distinction between the party and the NDA. The BJP is different and the NDA is an alliance which includes all parties, he told PTI.
‘Need at least one LS seat’: Ayub
The only condition Ayub has for the alliance is that the Peace Party should get at least one seat.
“The Peace Party will contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as part of an alliance. The party has decided to contest the elections in alliance with the NDA, the INDIA bloc or the BSP, whoever gives us a stake,” he said.
“I would prefer to be a partner of a party or in an alliance rather than becoming a slave. Everyone is equal for us. The one who will make us a partner is our friend. For us, there is no untouchable and no enemy. The NDA, the INDIA bloc and the BSP all are equal,” he said.
Asked how many seats he would want for his party, he said, “We understand our situation… two-three seats, whatever we get. But I will definitely say that we should have a share and get at least one seat. What is the stake without a seat?”
When reminded of his statement that the Peace Party will never support the BJP, Ayub said it is an “old thing”.
Responding to a question on whether the BJP is no longer untouchable for him, the Peace Party chief said, “Not the BJP, the NDA is no longer untouchable for us. There is a difference between the BJP and the NDA. The BJP is different and the NDA is an alliance that includes all the parties.”
Ayub, a Pasmanda Muslim and a surgeon from Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district, however, has not reached out to any party yet.
History of the Peace Party
Ayub formed the Peace Party in 2008. The party fielded candidates on 20 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections but did not win any. It secured only 1 per cent votes.
The Peace Party contested the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in alliance with the Apna Dal and won four seats in the 403-member House while its partner bagged one. Among the winners was Ayub, who won from Khalilabad assembly constituency in Sant Kabir Nagar district.
In the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the Peace Party failed to open its account. It got 1.56 per cent votes. In the next assembly polls in 2022, the party’s vote share fell further to 0.59 per cent.
Successive losses in elections seem to have prompted a change of strategy.
“Right now, the party’s strategy is very clear that instead of creating our own vote bank, we will go with whoever gives us a share, be it the INDIA bloc, the NDA or the BSP,” Ayub said.
If Ayub joins the NDA, it could benefit the BJP, which has been trying to woo Pasmanda Muslims ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has organised a series of events over the last few months to connect with Pasmanda (extremely backward) Muslims.
Muslims comprise 18 to 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population. Of this, Pasmanda Muslims make up more than 80 per cent.
With Pasmandas often finding a mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches at party forums as well as government events, the BJP believes it is in a position to make inroads among them in the run-up to the 2024 general elections, a view emboldened by its win in Lok Sabha bypolls in Muslim-dominated seats of Azamgarh and Rampur in Uttar Pradesh.