Asaduddin Owaisi led All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has taken the lead in announcing the list of its candidate in the forthcoming and very crucial elections in Bihar. The Hyderabad based party that aims to turn itself into a pan-India party and has been trying to get a toehold in Bihar, has announced the first list of candidates for the forthcoming elections in Bihar.
The party has said that it will contest on 32 seats in the polls scheduled for later this year. Reports suggest that these constituencies are spread out in 22 districts of the state. The decision must have sent shockwaves within the RJD-Congress camp that was hoping to defeat the JDU, BJP combine and force it out of power.
The AIMIM that had drawn a blank in the last assembly elections, sneaked into the state assembly thanks to the success of Qamrul Huda from the Muslim dominated seat of Kishanganj. In the by-polls conducted last year, he was able to romp home with a margin of around 19,000 votes, squarely defeating BJP’s Sweety Singh, forcing the congress candidate to the third spot.
All the 22 districts where the firebrand Hyderabadi MP’s party has decided to fight elections have sizeable Muslim population and an overwhelming number of the seats where AIMIM has decided to field its candidates are being represented by Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) led Grand Alliance. The Grand Alliance has not just the RJD and the Congress in its fold, but smaller regional parties like Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP).
A local activist was quoted by the NewsClick as saying that there were apprehensions about the intent of the AIMIM as more than 95 percent of the 32 seats from where the Hyderabad based party has announced its candidates were actually won by the Grand Alliance constituents in the last assembly elections held in the year 2015. He goes on to add that the BJP could win merely a single seat out of the 32. It must be kept in mind that in the last assembly elections, the RJD and the Congress had fought the polls in alliance with the JDU of Nitish Kumar. However, Kumar ditched the alliance two years later and marched away with the BJP.
While the AIMIM leaders claim that they want to defeat the BJP and the JDU combine in the state, it is not actually hard to find as to whose prospects they will hurt. Many analysts believe that the intent of the Owaisi led party is not to beat the BJP but to ensure the victory of the BJP and the JDU alliance in the crucial North Indian state by dividing the Muslim votes.
A senior Patna based political analyst tells me that AIMIM’s entry will benefit no one but the NDA in the state. He goes on to add that “this is not the first time that the party with a limited appeal in Hyderabad city wants to destroy the chances of the Congress party. They have repeatedly done the same in the past. They fought assembly elections in Maharashtra. While they could win just about two seats, they garnered a couple of thousand votes from many seats. At a time when elections are won and lost by wafer thin margin, it is not very surprising that they adversely impacted the chances of Congress-NCP in several states”.
Not just in Bihar, the AIMIM has also decided to field candidates in all the 294 assembly constituencies in West Bengal, another state where the BJP is trying to topple Mamta Banerjee led TMC government. Elections in the state are slated to be held next year and there are apprehensions among political pundits that the entry of the Owaisi led fledgling party may cut into Muslim votes. Owaisi is a rabble rouser who touches the raw emotions of the common Muslims, especially the Muslim youth in many places. In the given political atmosphere his narrative of discrimination against Muslims seems all the more appealing to the Muslim youth.
What is surprising is the fact that the Owaisi brothers who rant against the Congress and the perceived discrimination against the Muslims by successive Congressi government in states and at the center actually keep mum about many issues of paramount importance to the Muslim community. He largely kept out of the limelight when anti-CAA protests were being held across the country modeled on Shaheen Bagh protests led and organized by Muslim women. He never visited the protest site either in Jamia Millia Islamia or Shaheen Bagh where thousands and thousands of women sat on indefinite dharna for several weeks. The same happened during the Delhi riots of February this year when the Owaisi brother did precious little to put pressure on the government to stop the riots that consumed the lives of at least 53 people, most of them Muslims. He has kept studied silence over the witch hunting of the Muslim youth who were part of the anti-CAA protests, for falsely implicating them in organizing Delhi riots.
There are also many questions about the real intentions of the party and its leadership. Why, instead of expanding in Telangana outside Hyderabad, it is trying to fight elections where it has little or no base. Soroor Ahmed, a Patna based journalist while writing in one of his columns says, “The irony is that the AIMIM does not expand its base outside Hyderabad in Telangana, where there is organizational scope for it. In at least four districts of erstwhile Nizam state (besides Hyderabad) in Telangana there is palpable Muslim population. Instead Owaisi prefers to put up candidates in Muslim pockets in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and is now planning to field his party’s nominees in Jharkhand and Bengal”.
He says that the real intent of the Owaisi brothers and AIMIM is to further weaken the secular parties. “Curiously, in Telangana Owaisi does not talk about empowering Muslims when his party is in alliance with the ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samiti. It is a well-known fact that TRS is inclined towards the BJP and voted in its favour in Parliament recently, for example on the issue of Triple Talaq. Thus, it is obvious that AIMIM wants to target and weaken the secular parties in different states as therein he finds his voters” he writes further.
More Columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Despite muted denials, NRC will target Muslims
Bhagwat, Madani meet: End of the maddening divide
Ahmadullah Shah: Hero whose head and body are buried
Muslim women's entry in mosques: What is the truth?
Syed is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October