New Delhi: Outspoken, educated in both secular and religious issues, against Islamic fundamentalism, and a career out and out in public life, is best how 71-year-old Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan can be described as.
Khan’s name has been doing rounds as a probable NDA candidate for the Presidential poll due in July. Some BJP leaders point out that Khan fits the bill of Indian Muslims, the way the party envisages, those following Islam but practicing Indian ethos.
Graduating in Arts from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), followed by a law degree from Lucknow University, the Bulandshahar born Khan has always been known for his strong views about orthodox Islamic practices and has advocated for social reforms in Muslim community.
In fact, even after being a student leader at the AMU and starting his political career with former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Kranti Dal, Khan’s claim to fame moment came when in 1986 he famously voiced staunch opposition to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s move of constitutional amendment to nullify the Supreme Court’s judgment in Shah Bano case.
Khan had opposed Rajiv Gandhi even when he was considered as a close aide of Rajiv Gandhi owing to his intelligence and bright acumen. His defiance of ruling Congress’ official line in this crucial case that went on to alter the Hindu Muslim equation for the country paved the way for his exit from the Congress.
He then joined V.P. Singh’s Janata Dal, which he left after some time to join Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
In his long political career, Khan served once as a member of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly and four times as a member of the Parliament. He also served as a Union minister in Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. Singh governments.
In 2004, he joined the BJP and unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha poll that year. He had left the saffron camp in 2007 but rejoined after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014.
Khan also strongly opposed the practice of Triple Talaq and hence supported the Modi government’s decision to ban it.
Many in the saffron camp believe that his opposition to the Islamic fundamentalism has earned him the post of a Governor in the NDA rule in September 2019.
Many in the BJP believe that Khan’s progressive Muslim image fits well in Prime Minister Modi’s “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Prayas” vision and therefore he stands a good chance to be for Modi what A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was for Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. However, the decision to field him as NDA’s presidential candidate will be taken by the party’s parliamentary board only after consultation with its alliance partners next month.