CAIRO - A prominent Indian Muslim politician is accusing the ruling Congress party of discrimination over his faith.
"For the first time in the history of the Congress party, I feel as though being born a Muslim is a crime," Aslam Sher Khan told The Times of India on Monday, November 26.
"There is a clear division in the party with a privileged creamy group of persons including feudal lords and industrialists on one hand and Muslims, Dalits, tribals, backwards on the other.
The privileged class will lead while we will be left behind," he said.
Khan, a former lawmaker and head of the Indian Olympic Association, argues that top party leaders from Madhya Pradesh, India's second largest state, are trying sidelining him over his Muslim faith.
His complaint came after central leaders refused to take him along to meet Sonia Gandhi, president of All India Congress Committee (AICC), after a coordination committee meeting.
"I am the senior-most Muslim leader of the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh," Khan said.
I have been attached to the Congress for the past 32 years and was given tickets to contest Lok Sabha elections by the party high command through the decades from Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi to PV Narasimha Rao.
According to Khan, all members of the coordination committee were summoned for the meeting to discuss differences within the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) before the 2013 election against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"This was a much-sought after meeting and we were told that the party president would be present, said Khan, who was elected to the Lok sabha from Betul constituency in 1984 and 1991 said.
But BK Hariprasad said that Sonia Gandhi was busy and a delegation of six to seven persons would go to her residence at 10 Janpath and brief her. We were made to wait for one-and-a-half hours at the party headquarters and then asked to sign on a piece of paper, he said, referring to the AICC general-secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh.
The privileged men went ahead to brief the party president and did not even return to tell us what was said.
The irritated Muslim politician accused the Congress Party of leaving behind India's ethnic minorities.
"They left those who represent minorities, Dalits, backwards and women from meeting the party president," Khan said.
"We represent communities that are the backbone of the Congress party and yet there is no place for us.
Khan argued that representatives of the Other Backward Class (OBC) were also left behind.
NP Prajapati who is a Dalit leader was not included neither was Indrajit Patel representing the OBC or Manju Rai who is a woman. And I am a Muslim, Khan added.
The Muslim politician opines that discrimination against minorities has led to the defeat of the Congress party in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.
"In Madhya Pradesh we have lost every successive election from assembly to local bodies because of this attitude of central leaders," he said.
"But this will not go on. I have vowed to stay within the Congress and show the party how important and strong the minority communities can be," he threatened.
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India and they have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life.
Muslims complain of decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.
Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.