A Muslim JD(U) MLA of Bihar got so carried away by the new-found bonhomie between his party JD(U) and BJP that he chanted 'Jai Sri Ram', drawing the ire of a senior cleric who said he stood "expelled from Islam" for his action.
Khurshid alias Feroz Ahmad enthusiastically made the chant, a favourite of the Hindu far right that wants a Ram temple at the place in Ayodhya where the Babri mosque stood before being razed down in 1992, after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar won the trust vote on July 28.
Khurshid was later inducted into the ministry and now holds the minority welfare portfolio.
"I worship both Ram and Rahim. I don't have any hesitation in saying Jai Sri Ram if it is in the interest of the people of Bihar and benefits them," Khurshid later told journalists, proudly displaying the red Hindu sacred thread called Kalawa or Mouli on his wrist.
Khurshid's secular protestations did not go down well with the Muslim clergy and some politicians but his own party backed him.
Sohail Ahmad Qasmi, the Mufti of Imarat Shariah, Patna, said, "Any person who says he worships both Rasul and Ram, bows his head before every faith, then shouts 'Jai Sri Ram', that person is automatically expelled from Islam."
"I have seen his statements in newspapers and also circulating on Whatsapp. In this background I have expressed my opinion ... It is not a fatwa which has been issued by the Imarat Shariah. Considering my responsibility as an Aalim and Mufti, I have expressed my opinion," he said.
Khurshid also drew criticism from senior RJD leader and former minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who said it appeared that the minister had got a "badshahat" (kingdom) somewhere.
NCP leader and former union minister Tariq Anwar said it showed that the minister can stoop to any level to grab power. "People will teach a lesson to such people," he said.
As criticism mounted, Khurshid tendered apology.
"If my statement has hurt anyone, then I tender my apology. My statement has been distorted."
Khurshid said Nitish Kumar asked him to reconsider his statement if it hurt sentiments of people and tender an apology.
JD(U) spokesman Neeraj Kumar defended Khurshid and said the slogan raised by him was not intended to hurt anyone's religious sentiments.
"This is the country where great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi used to take the name of Ram and Rahim in the same breath. This a conspiracy to finish the Ganga-Jamuni (inclusive) tradition," he said.
(Feature image: Sanjeevni Today)