ADVERTISEMENT

Is Karnataka’s New Party MEP Secretly Working for the BJP?

The Mahila Empowerment Party has taken many by surprise by contesting in all 224 constituencies in Karnataka.

Updated
Politics
3 min read
Filmstars campaigning for MEP.
i
Snapshot

The poll battle in Karnataka may largely be between the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), but there’s a new player in the state that has raised many an eyebrow. The six-month-old All India Mahila Empowerment Party (MEP), which is registered with the Election Commission of India, is making its political entry in Karnataka and will be contesting all 224 Assembly constituencies. This despite having no roots in the state.

Is Karnataka’s New Party MEP Secretly Working for the BJP?

  1. 1. But What Exactly is the MEP and Who is it Led By?

    Founded by the CEO of Hyderabad-based Heera Group, Nowhera Shaikh, the MEP was launched last November in a star-studded event in New Delhi with tennis player Sania Mirza, film stars Sunil Shetty, Bobby Deol, Zeenat Aman, and choreographer Farah Khan among the attendees.

    While the motto of the fledgling party is ‘justice for humanity’, Shaikh had announced at the launch that the MEP would rally around women’s rights and gender justice.

    "A sound society which recognises equality of all its members can only build a healthy and strong nation. Empowering women is a means towards the empowerment of the larger society and the nation", Shaikh had stated at the launch.

    Despite the name and its stated objectives, the Mahila Empowerment Party has ended up fielding only 40 women in Karnataka’s 224 constituencies.
    Expand
  2. 2. How Many Women Members Does MEP Have?

    Siraj Jafferi, a party spokesperson told The Wire that only 30 percent of the applications the MEP received were from women. The Wire’s reporters Mahtab Alam and Hina Fathima also found that there were more men than women in the party office.

    An MEP member told TNM, on the condition of anonymity, that party members have been working out of its office in the business centre of the Leela Palace, a seven-star hotel in Bengaluru.

    The online campaign has only begun in the last couple of weeks. The party’s Twitter account was made in April and even a meticulous search will not reveal a digital footprint before that.

    The party source also admitted that they were working with deep pockets. "The resources available are unlimited", he added.

    The MEP has been on a publicity blitzkrieg, with hoardings of Shaikh plastered in districts across Karnataka. The party is spending a lot as they are running advertisements in a number of Kannada and English news channels too. The MEP has also brought in star campaigners like Bollywood actors Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan.

    Expand
  3. 3. Who is Nowhera Shaikh?

    Born in Tirupati, Shaikh began her career in the field of education, starting an Islamic school for girls in the temple town of Andhra Pradesh in 1998. She then started Heera Gold Exports and Imports, trading in the commodity and now manages the Heera Group, which reportedly runs numerous businesses ranging from gold, diamonds, textiles, real estate development among others, with a presence in the Middle East, Canada, besides several states in India. Her company website describes Shaikh as a “socially sensitive businesswoman”.

    However, despite the claims of philanthropy, the Heera Group has come under the Income Tax scanner on multiple occasions including most recently in October 2017 when I-T officials found tax issues amounting to Rs 60 crore with Heera Gold Group.

    Expand
  4. 4. B-Team of the BJP?

    Beyond the deep pockets, the fledgling party has also been accused by the Congress of being the B-team of the BJP, with the aim to split the ruling party’s minority votes.

    A MEP member told TNM that there was a lack of seriousness among party members to adhere to any ideology.

    “It is not strictly about the ideology but an attempt to cut into the Congress’ minority votes in every constituency”, said the source.

    On 4 May, party members tried to whip up support online by alleging that people affiliated to the Congress pelted stones during an MEP rally in Govindpur in the Sarvagnanagar constituency in Bengaluru. They claimed that while several MEP workers were injured and hospitalised, Shaikh narrowly escaped the incident.

    Others also pointed out the MEP’s links with the saffron party. MEP’s Karnataka President Azhar Ali was with the BJP earlier as was another leader Farida Begum, reported The Wire. The website also reported that a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was among those invited when the MEP announced its first list of candidates.

    And while the party has denied the Congress’ allegations that it is a plant of the BJP, a recent advertisement showed Shaikh congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi “for laying stone of starting bullet train and for initiating swachh bharat abhiyan”.

    In a incident that lended support to the Congress’ allegations, the Election Commission’s surveillance squad found MEP and BJP campaign material on the same truck in April.

    (This piece was originally published on The News Minute and has been republished here with permission.)

    (The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit Send.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

But What Exactly is the MEP and Who is it Led By?

Founded by the CEO of Hyderabad-based Heera Group, Nowhera Shaikh, the MEP was launched last November in a star-studded event in New Delhi with tennis player Sania Mirza, film stars Sunil Shetty, Bobby Deol, Zeenat Aman, and choreographer Farah Khan among the attendees.

While the motto of the fledgling party is ‘justice for humanity’, Shaikh had announced at the launch that the MEP would rally around women’s rights and gender justice.

"A sound society which recognises equality of all its members can only build a healthy and strong nation. Empowering women is a means towards the empowerment of the larger society and the nation", Shaikh had stated at the launch.

Despite the name and its stated objectives, the Mahila Empowerment Party has ended up fielding only 40 women in Karnataka’s 224 constituencies.
ADVERTISEMENT

How Many Women Members Does MEP Have?

Siraj Jafferi, a party spokesperson told The Wire that only 30 percent of the applications the MEP received were from women. The Wire’s reporters Mahtab Alam and Hina Fathima also found that there were more men than women in the party office.

An MEP member told TNM, on the condition of anonymity, that party members have been working out of its office in the business centre of the Leela Palace, a seven-star hotel in Bengaluru.

The online campaign has only begun in the last couple of weeks. The party’s Twitter account was made in April and even a meticulous search will not reveal a digital footprint before that.

The party source also admitted that they were working with deep pockets. "The resources available are unlimited", he added.

The MEP has been on a publicity blitzkrieg, with hoardings of Shaikh plastered in districts across Karnataka. The party is spending a lot as they are running advertisements in a number of Kannada and English news channels too. The MEP has also brought in star campaigners like Bollywood actors Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan.

Who is Nowhera Shaikh?

Born in Tirupati, Shaikh began her career in the field of education, starting an Islamic school for girls in the temple town of Andhra Pradesh in 1998. She then started Heera Gold Exports and Imports, trading in the commodity and now manages the Heera Group, which reportedly runs numerous businesses ranging from gold, diamonds, textiles, real estate development among others, with a presence in the Middle East, Canada, besides several states in India. Her company website describes Shaikh as a “socially sensitive businesswoman”.

However, despite the claims of philanthropy, the Heera Group has come under the Income Tax scanner on multiple occasions including most recently in October 2017 when I-T officials found tax issues amounting to Rs 60 crore with Heera Gold Group.

ADVERTISEMENT

B-Team of the BJP?

Beyond the deep pockets, the fledgling party has also been accused by the Congress of being the B-team of the BJP, with the aim to split the ruling party’s minority votes.

A MEP member told TNM that there was a lack of seriousness among party members to adhere to any ideology.

“It is not strictly about the ideology but an attempt to cut into the Congress’ minority votes in every constituency”, said the source.

On 4 May, party members tried to whip up support online by alleging that people affiliated to the Congress pelted stones during an MEP rally in Govindpur in the Sarvagnanagar constituency in Bengaluru. They claimed that while several MEP workers were injured and hospitalised, Shaikh narrowly escaped the incident.

Others also pointed out the MEP’s links with the saffron party. MEP’s Karnataka President Azhar Ali was with the BJP earlier as was another leader Farida Begum, reported The Wire. The website also reported that a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was among those invited when the MEP announced its first list of candidates.

And while the party has denied the Congress’ allegations that it is a plant of the BJP, a recent advertisement showed Shaikh congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi “for laying stone of starting bullet train and for initiating swachh bharat abhiyan”.

In a incident that lended support to the Congress’ allegations, the Election Commission’s surveillance squad found MEP and BJP campaign material on the same truck in April.

(This piece was originally published on The News Minute and has been republished here with permission.)

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit Send.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Published: 
ADVERTISEMENT
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
ADVERTISEMENT