Former External Affairs Minister and senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid spoke to leading News Paper on the Muslim leadership in the state and apparent dissatisfaction among the community with the ruling party in Rajasthan:

The Muslim leadership in Rajasthan is restricted to some regions, there seems to be a vacuum when it comes to a state level leader

That’s an organic problem. What the party does periodically is pick people across the spectrum, which includes minority leaders, backward leaders, Dalits, to ensure that the message is that nobody is kept out of the leadership circle.

But what has happened in recent years is that we’ve been restricted in numbers. So, the chance to accommodate the largest choice is not there anymore. & this is a problem of paucity; if you have ten seats, you can accommodate a range of people, but if you are stuck with two seats, then how do you arrange your people.

This is a physical problem of our times. Therefore, when people say there is no Muslim to represent us, I think that maybe justified in one manner, it’s a fact that there is no one to represent, (but) I think it’s not only a Muslim who can represent Muslims. Any Rajasthan leader is just as capable & equipped to represent Muslims, as he is to represent any other community. When it comes to giving seats in an Assembly election, if we didn’t give them seats, then you might say it’s not fair.

The trouble with the party today is, we are up against a very difficult atmosphere, created by our adversaries. That atmosphere can make us self-conscious of our choice, but we shouldn’t be. The problem is that sometimes you have to balance ideology and strategy, but strategy must not replace ideology.

Is there a need to consolidate?

There is no need to consolidate Muslims politically, but there is a need to educate them politically. Educating them politically is what he tried to do. Making them feel wanted. But consolidating, you are inviting trouble from the other side. Then they say let us consolidate as well. & when they consolidate, they are more. It is a passing phase, it will not remain.

I would say connect, not consolidate… There are an equal number of non-Muslims who are willing to speak. There is no need for us to be exclusive all the time.

Congress minority cell has had Arjun Singh as its president; because for us, it is inclusive, not exclusive. Consolidation has to be inclusive. You can’t have a non-Dalit as head of BSP, I don’t think you can have a non-Yadav as head of Mulayam Singh’s party. Congress head can be absolutely anybody.

But within Congress there are some leaders who questioned the Gandhis

Why don’t they give us their pedigree? They first met the Gandhis when they were 15 years old. And from 15 to 55, they’ve got everything from Gandhis. Now, at the age of 56, how can you say to the Gandhis, who are these people?

Each one of them has lost elections. When they lost elections, when did they come and say I take responsibility. Rahul Gandhi said I take responsibility.

What is your observation on Jyotiraditya Scindia or Sachin Pilot?

Same comment as before. The point is if anyone is born in politics on their own, then they should complain I can’t grow in your party on my own. But if you are born in the lap of leadership, then how can you complain when you are grown up.

There was a controversy regarding a government textbook

That book has an offending portion. He (Rafeek Khan) has brought it to the notice of the government and to the notice of the Assembly. That offending portion must go, but that offending portion must not become an issue between communities in the state.

What the BJP wants to do is it wants Muslims to raise Muslim issues. This is not a Muslim issue, this is a secular issue. This is as much a concern of any other MLA as it was his. Now he raised the issue, very good, because it had to be raised urgently. But if another non-Muslim MLA had raised the issue, I would have been happier.

BJP only wants us to talk about minority issues. The NRC-CAA agitation was a noble agitation; it was not a Muslim agitation. The good thing is that thousands of non-Muslims joined that agitation.

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