New Delhi: Haji Yakub Qureshi, minority welfare minister in the Mulayam Singh government, hit the headlines when he announced a reward for the head of the Danish cartoonist who lampooned the prophet.
His reputation precedes him, so you expect to meet a stereotype. But the Haji doesn’t quite confirm.
Over tea and toast and more than an occasional smoke, the Haji is discussing Bagladesh's victory over South Africa.
While the womenfolk in his household begin their door to door, he’s running late for his roadshows.
His campaign managers Tyagi and Chaudhury armed with the constituencies caste permutations and tell him its time to hit the road.
Haji Yakub’s first stop is the Shoroka village on the outskirts of Meerut. He promises to do more than Mulayam delivered and then announces a donation for the upkeep of the local temple.
Mulayam continues to be the target in another village and the next. At another public meeting, Haji Yakub senses that his audience is restless and he slips into the role of the rable rouser with ease.
And when we ask him if he regretted issuing the fatwa against the Danish cartoonist, he says, “I did not have to shell out the Rs 51 crore I announced.”
And he’s ever ready to rent-a-fatwa if its got to do with the real enemy. “I am ready to confront George Bush, the world's biggest terrorist,” he says.
But what stares you in the eye is the ultimate politician, a Muslim to a Muslim and almost a secular leader to the others.
Thanks to his rable-rousing speeches, Haji Yakub has managed to create a political space for himself.
For the other parties, not quite on the radar of the Muslim voter but eyeing the votebank, nevertheless.
The Haji is a rallying point but that has only confounded the confusion of the UP Muslim.