Allies of the controversial Towers Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman, who is currently facing charges of electoral fraud at the high court, are considering running against Labour in two east London constituencies.
Senior aides of the mayor are understood by BuzzFeed News to be weighing up general election bids in the Poplar and Limehouse constituency and the neighbouring seat of Bethnal Green and Bow.
Rahman, a former Labour politician who was expelled from the party, has twice beaten his former party in elections to become mayor of the London borough. But in November, communities secretary Eric Pickles imposed central government oversight over the council, branding Towers Hamlets a "rotten borough" due to accusations of cronyism and extremism.
One candidate tipped by insiders to stand for Towers Hamlets First is councillor Rabina Khan in Bethnal Green and Bow, currently held by Labour's Rushanara Ali. When asked whether she would take part in the election, Khan failed to rule out running for parliament. Instead, she said there was a place for Tower Hamlets First in Westminster.
She said: "I am disappointed by the commitment of both parties to unwavering austerity and believe strongly in advancing the principle of grassroots community organisation against machine politics; something that Tower Hamlets First was founded upon. I see no reason why such a vision could not be advanced through parliamentary means."
Deputy mayor Oliur Rahman, a fellow member of Tower Hamlets First, said he is weighing up whether to stand in Poplar and Limehouse against incumbent Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick.
"If I were to stand, that's where I would consider," he said.
Oliur Rahman said he had yet to confirm an electoral run and that the final decision on whether he stands in the general election would lie with Lutfur Rahman. The mayor's political adviser did not return requests for comment.
An electoral challenge from Towers Hamlets First could cause trouble for Ed Miliband's party and Labour fears that influential Muslim candidates in the constituencies could split the vote.
Tower Hamlets First was founded by Lutfur Rahman in 2014 and has a strong following among the local Bangladeshi population. But Conservative home secretary Theresa May has accused the party's politicians of practising "divisive community politics" in the east London borough.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Siraj Datoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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