Who is Syed Naseer Hussain, Congress Rajya Sabha MP in middle of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ row

Bengaluru: The victory celebrations of Congress’s Syed Naseer Hussain, in which his supporters allegedly chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, has thrown the spotlight on the two-term Rajya Sabha member of parliament.

Hussain, the 54-year-old MP from Ballari in Karnataka, is now the target of all opposition barbs as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using the alleged episode as a platform to target the Congress party ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

The Siddaramaiah government has ordered a probe into the incident and sent the video and voice samples to the forensics department to ascertain if any of Hussain’s supporters did indeed chant slogans in favour of India’s main adversary.

The Rajya Sabha MP has clarified that his supporters said ‘Nasir Sahaab Zindabad’ and that the BJP is using the incident to flare up communal tensions for political gains.

Unlike the candidature of Ajay Maken, Husain’s nomination did not see any protests from within the Congress ranks. More often than not, securing a Congress candidature to the Rajya Sabha is indication of the close proximity to the Gandhis. But this does not translate into mass-based support — the kind that was seen at Hussain’s victory celebrations.

Hussain told ThePrint that the BJP were targeting him because of his faith and that he had tried to corner the Union government over issues like farm laws, Manipur, inflation and unemployment among others. “BJP has all these things in mind, and they are also targeting me because they identify me with (Mallikarjuna) Kharge Sahaab also,” he added.

But who is Hussain and why does he enjoy the patronage of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge. ThePrint looks at the rise of the


Also Read: Rajya Sabha polls expose fault lines within BJP-JD(S) alliance in Karnataka ahead of Lok Sabha 


‘Decent equations’ 

Hussain is from Ballari, a backward district bordering Andhra Pradesh, that gained notoriety in the peak of the illegal mining ore scandal. He completed schooling in Ballari and then moved to Mysore for higher studies.

This is where he entered politics through the student movement and was elected the president of the St. Philomena’s college student union and later a general secretary of the Mysore City Students Action Committee. He then left for Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where he became secretary, vice-president and the president of the students union.

Hussain later took up the role of the national secretary of the Indian Youth Congress between 2001 and 2003. During this period, he met senior Congress leader Oscar Fernandes through whom he started to meet senior party leaders and make acquaintances, giving him much-needed access to the powers that be.

Named later as the party spokesperson, he appeared on TV debates during the two UPA governments, defending the Congress.

When an opening came up in the Rajya Sabha in 2018, Kharge wanted this seat to go to a leader from the Kalyana-Karnataka region. “We were looking for a young leader, from either the minority or backward community from the Kalyana-Karnataka region….at the time…he was from JNU, knew people in Delhi, had youth Congress roots and was from Ballari,” said one Congress leader.

Kharge is from Kalaburagi in the Kalyana-Karnataka region.

The person cited above said that Hussain turned out to be a good fit, had ‘decent equations’ with leaders in Delhi, Karnataka, and Ballari.

‘Brave to contest elections’

Hussain has not contested any general election but has served as the vice chairman of advisory committees on the central boards on child labour, tobacco labour welfare among others. He was also appointed the chairman of two sub- committees in the Ministry of Labour. When Kharge became the Union labour minister, Hussain’s role was directly under him.

As the late Fernandes and Kharge are from Karnataka, Hussain found a common tongue to establish a better connection with these leaders.

Hussain worked his way into Kharge’s good books and is now part of a four-member team of coordinators attached to the national president’s office along with Gurudeep Sappal, Gaurav Pandi and Pranav Jha.

Hussain is the Congress whip in the Rajya Sabha, and Kharge the Leader of the Opposition in the upper house.

The Congress leader says that he is not a ‘bucket case’— referring to the Kannada expression that means flattering one’s way through to higher positions.

Hussain was an aspirant for the Ballari city assembly segment in 2018 and 2023 even though there is little to suggest that he could have won, considering that Gail Janardhana Reddy’ wife, his brother Somashekara Reddy and businessman Bharat Reddy were in the fray.

“He is quite capable (to contest elections)…in fact, he had asked to contest in the assembly elections (May 2023) from Ballari city. At that time, he may not have won but the point is that he is brave enough to contest,” the Congress leader said.

(Edited by Tony Rai)


Also Read: Capex falls to Rs 52,903-cr in Karnataka budget, Siddaramaiah allots nearly same amount for 5 promises 


 

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