Pir Pagara’s followers to vote for Jaswant Singh in India’s elections

JAIPUR/JAISALMER- The chief of Pakistan-based Peer-Pagara sect has asked his followers based in Barmer and Jaisalmer in India to vote for expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls as an Independent candidate.

More than 2.5 lakh Sindhi Muslims belonging to Barmer-Jaisalmer Lok Sabha constituency are followers of the sect. "Several people from the community have informed us about the message from the sect leader to support my father," said Bhupendra Singh, younger son of Jaswant Singh. He said that the current sect leader Pir Shibghatullah Shah has asked his followers to support Singh.

In 2006, Jaswant Singh had gone to visit the shrine of Hinglaj Mata in Sindh in Pakistan. The then chief of the Peer-Pagara sect, Syed Mardan Shah, had hosted a dinner for Singh. The shrines of Peer Pagara and Hinglaj are located in the same vicinity in Sindh. Syed Mardan Shah died in 2012 after which his son Pir Shibghatullah Shah succeeded him.

"We have received directions from our religious leader and several passengers coming to India by Thar Express also told us about his support to Singh," said Hasan Khan, Sindhi Muslim leader from Ajwani locality in Barmer. Another community leader Roshan Khan dittoed him. They said that the community leaders will start campaigning for Singh from April 6, 2014.

Sindhi Muslims have been traditional supporters of Jaswant Singh and his family even when they contested as BJP candidates in the past. Jaswant Singh's elder son, Manvendra Singh had won with a record margin thanks to the community's support in 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Manvendra won the recent assembly polls from Shiv with record margin.

The kin of those living in the Sindh close to bordering Barmer have already started vouching for Singh since they attribute the start of Thar Express between Munabao (Barmer) to Khokhrapar (Pakistan) to this family. Residents belonging to Sodha and Swaroop Ka Tala villages located on India-Pakistan border in Barmer also told Indian media that they have got phone calls from their kin residing in bordering Sindh province asking them to vote for Singh. "He is known as Maulana among us as he has done much to safeguard rights and interests of the Muslim community," said Jahoor Mohammed, secretary of a Madarsa situated at Tilak Nagar on the Barmer-Jaisalmer highway. He said that Jaswant himself was a peer for them as he facilitated everyone who visited him in Delhi while getting visa for Pakistan. "Sahab ke ek phone se kaam ho jaata thaa," recalled Noor Ali of Baiyto village near Barmer. "In 2004, Jaswant Singh ji in an election meeting had promised to start a train between India and Pakistan while asking vote for Manvendra Singh and he did it for us later," said Ali.

As Muslim voters in Barmer-Jaisalmer have shown support to Singh, the latter is also trying to showcase his secular credentials. In the press statement issued on Sunday, Singh had maintained that he never supported the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and was saddened when the disputed structure was demolished. Recently Samajwadi Party leaders, Mulayam Singh and Azam Khan also called Singh offering him to extend their support. The two leaders had also requested Singh to join the Samajwadi Party. However, Singh preferred contesting as Independent with their support.

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