Abbas Siddique, the cleric of Furfura Sharif, announced his political outfit, Indian Secular Front, on Thursday.

Furfura Sharif is a prominent medieval shrine and wields great influence over Muslims in south Bengal.

The development was keenly awaited in poll-bound West Bengal after All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi visited Furfura, located in Jangipara subdivision of Hooghly district, earlier this month and declared his intention to back Abbas Siddique in the 2021 Assembly elections.

“I will not contest from any seat. I want to play the kingmaker,” said the young religious leader.

We have launched this party for the welfare of the poor and the downtrodden and help them access the rights our Constitution has provided,” Mr. Siddique said, while launching the flag of the party at a press conference at the Kolkata Press Cub. His brother Naushad Siddique has been appointed chairman of the party and the outfit will announce its political activities on January 26.

Mr. Siddique responded to allegations that his front was a ploy to split the Muslim vote and help the BJP. “There was no BJP before the 2011... Who is to be blamed for the rise of the BJP?” he said in an oblique reference to the Trinamool Congress. He accused the party of not fulfilling the promises made to the minorities in the State.

Muslims constitute 27.01% of the population in West Bengal and they have since 2011 been voting overwhelmingly in favour of Trinamool Congress. A split in Muslim votes is likely to impact the prospect of the ruling party in the upcoming Assembly polls.

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