The bearded, middle-aged doctor has a 100-bed hospital in Gorakhpur and a specialisation in liver ailments, besides running Hi-Tech Syringes, “India’s largest exporter of disposable syringes”.
Now, after “15 operations last night”, Dr Ayub has arrived in Delhi to “relaunch” his party. Having contested 21 parliamentary seats in the 2009 polls in UP, the Peace Party is set to field candidates in 250 of the state’s 403 Assembly seats next year.
Smaller parties in UP have been encouraged by a “trend” in recent Assembly elections elsewhere. A strong performance by the IUML in Kerala and the AIUDF in Assam has shown an apparent shift in the Muslim vote, not just to non-traditional parties but also to parties that made a statement for representation by fielding Muslim faces. The number of Muslim representatives, too, has risen in the Assemblies of Assam, Kerala and West Bengal.
“All so-called secular parties claim to represent Muslims, but they don’t. They have decided to just patronise a few elite families amongst Muslims, Dalits and backwards... Mayawati too got a full term. What social justice did she accomplish?” Dr Ayub says.
He tries to make a sophisticated case, often using the expression “socially oppressed” for Muslim voters. He calls his party one for the “underclass and the oppressed”, not openly a “Muslim” party, though there is a hope of “networking” with similar parties, nationally, after 2012.
He is not the first doctor to dive into politics. Dr Ramadoss used his successful mofussil practice as a launchpad for the Vanniyar-centric Pattali Makkal Katchi. Dr Faridi headed the Majlis-e-Mushawarat to take on the Congress in UP in the mid-60s, after violent riots in towns like Jabalpur, Sagar and Rourkela.
Dr Ayub’s formula is akin to Mayawati’s Dalit Plus: the party would be a core Muslim centre that it hopes will draw other smaller groups; “other oppressed and ignored groups like the Rajbhars, the Mallahs and even east UP’s Gwal Yadavs, ignored by Mulayam Singh Yadav, who only favours his family and sub-caste of Kamharia Yadavs.”
As the contest is directly with the Congress, the SP and the BSP, most of the fire is reserved for them. But there is anger also at the Muslim middle class for turning away from them. “What has the Congress or the BJP, BSP or SP done? They have not improved representation of Muslims or even their economic status; they have just increased the strife between the two communities and provided oxygen to them with talk of riots, bombs, encounters, mandir-masjid etc. We want to take up issues related to the common man and the poor, jobs and economic well being. The Muslim IAS or IPS is even scared of acknowledging us if we greet them on the street. Why are we communal or branded a Muslim party when important office-bearers are Nishaads, Khatiks, Rajbhars and Mallahs? Is it secular for me to say Jai Bheem and namaskar and communal if I say salaam? Those who call us Muslim must define what kind of parties they are if we are a Muslim party.”
On the question of being parties that just end up dividing the Muslim vote, the doctor is angry. “In Khalilabad in 2009, we got more than a lakh votes and the Congress 35,000 votes. In the by-election in Lakhimpur, the Congress, BJP and the BSP-supported candidates lost their deposits and we came second, so who may I ask is the vote kaatnewaala party?”
On charges of dubious funding, Dr Ayub says, “We are asked if the RSS or Yogi Adityanath is funding us. How absurd. I pay Rs 2 crore as tax annually. I have run a business of disposable syringes, the second largest in India, and a flourishing hospital for two-and-a-half decades now. Do the Congress leadership’s helicopters run on water? They don’t do any business; who funds them? Why ask about our funds? It is all out in the open. ”
But is the launch a game to fish for allies in Delhi? Just before the Assam polls, for example, the Congress went all out to “subdue” the AIUDF, an example for how success in business can be translated into political clout on the basis of “social work” for a community. Dr Ayub’s associates are quick to respond: “We will ally with the Congress only if they implement the Ranganath Mishra Commission report.”
Ayub admits he has reason to believe the Congress will, and then they can settle for seats. “But we are keen to fight at least 100 seats.”