Loyal, educated and urban: Is Syed Zafar Islam BJP’s token Muslim face in RS?

Elected unopposed, he gives “all credit” to party leadership for recognising “ordinary karyakarta” like him

Image Courtesy:m.khaskhabar.com

Hazaribag native, and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) alumni, Dr. Syed Zafar Islam, decribes himself on social media as, the national spokesperson-political and economic affairs, director Air India, ex investment banker, former managing director, Deutsche Bank, India. Now he can add Rajya Sabha member, as the Bharatiya Janata Party backed politician was elected unopposed, to the RS from UP. He succeeds Amar Singh, who passed away recently after a prolonged illness.  

The elections were scheduled on September 11, and till Friday September 4, the last day for withdrawal of nominations, there were no other contenders for the post, reports the Indian Express. The by-election was won unopposed. A jubilant Zafar Islam gave “all credit” to his party leadership for giving an opportunity to “an ordinary karyakarta” like him. 

According to him this shows the “vision of our party and its leader”, and as is naturally expected tagged all the party bosses, especially the Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a “Thanku Sir”


As is natural, 45-year-old Syed Zafar Islam is currently basking in the joy of the “win” and that his elevation in the party ranks is being recognised by his colleagues, and well wishers. For a party that does not have too many eminent Muslim representatives in its ranks, an MP hailing from UP is also a well thought political move. Amar Singh, had been elected to the Upper House on a Samajwadi Party ticket, and the SP’s loss is now BJP’s gain.

According to Indian Express before he was elected unopposed Zafar Islam had faced a token competion from BJP’s Govind Narain Shukla and Independent Mahesh Chandra Sharma who had also filed their nominations. Shukla withdrew his nomination the next day, and Sharma’s nomination got rejected on Wednesday as he did not have the backing of 10 members of the Legislative Assembly as required under the election rule, stated the IE. “Sayed Zafar Islam has been declared elected,” announced Returning Officer Brijbhushan Dubey, the IE informs that Zafar Islam, will be in Rajya Sabha till July 4, 2022, which is when Amar Singh’s term would have ended.

Waves of congratulations have begun washing over Zafar Islam, and is likely to continue for a while. He has been graciously acknowledging, and retweeting those messages. He describes himself modestly, as an ordinary “karyakarta” or worker of the party, but it is well known to political watchers that he has worked hard to reach the position he holds today. 

He is a perfect fit, and educated, professional, well spoken, admirer of Narendra Modi, and above all a Muslim from Uttar Pradesh. All assets in the present day political scene within the BJP, and outside. He has represented, and defended his party in multiple TV ‘debates’, and has also written scores of ‘opinion’ pieces in mainstream media. Visibility is the key to political sucess, and Zafar Islam has shown that it work.  

He has been on TV saying things like terrorism is well on its way out of Jammu and Kashmir, after the withdrawal of 370 and 35A. “Changes that have taken place in Kashmir, no one had thought that it would happen!” he said in a news show on Aajtak. 


His opinions and affiliations have always been well articulated. In 2017 he wrote in the Indian Express that Muslims must give BJP a fair chance, and the  community has devalued its own vote by becoming captive to self-styled secular parties

This was soon after the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. His opinion noted that “this handsome victory” was achieved even “without giving tickets to Muslim candidates”. He stated that the community’s “feelings of fear and uncertainty are being mischievously spread by the community’s political leaders in the Congress party and other self-certified secular parties. They are being made to believe that the BJP is communal and a confirmed anti-Muslim party though in reality it’s the opposite.”

According to this 2017 opinion he said “discredited maulanas and maulvis with no real reach use the media to spew venom against the BJP and RSS.”

He has come a long way, since then and become more direct. In April 2020, in an opinion written in the same paper he observed that  PM Modi’s sudden announcement of  the nationwide lockdown, must have come after the PM “agonised over it but he went for broke, like he has, successfully, on several occasions in the past.” He added that “Modi’s decision appeared to be well thought out, contrary to what his critics think.” He added that by May 2020, “we will see Modi’s decision for the nationwide lockdown being vindicated. We will continue to have a relatively low number of coronavirus cases — a situation which will easily be handled by our frontline warriors.” However, it has now been proven that the situation is the opposite of what loyalists predicted, and India is still recording a massive daily rise in Covid-19 cases. 

While Zafar Islam has never claimed to be an expert on the pandemic, his continuous defence of the ruling party, and perhaps his political patience and networking skills, can perhaps enable him to play a long innings in BJP. As the RSS cadres slogan after Ayodhya is “Kashi Mathura’, it would be interesting to watch how this Muslim leader plays his cards. If the BJP leadership, both in UP and centre allows him that space to do so, that is. 


Are Kashi-Mathura mosques in the crosshairs of hardliners again?
Gyanvyapi land dispute case: Allahabad HC stays Varanasi court’s order to commence hearing
Communal and Targeted Violence Bill: Why it must be codified into law
No Question Hour in Parliament: No pressure to give answers?
Uttar Pradesh’s alleged ‘Brahmin victimhood’ fuels saviour complex 
How many rapes and murders will it take before the UP govt takes action?



Related Articles