How Owaisi’s AIMIM is aiming for a national footprint
After success in Bihar, Asaduddin Owaisi-led party casts its eye on West Bengal. Meanwhile, AIMIM makes a small beginning in Gujarat
Amarnath K Menon
Despite hurdles like the Kolkata police denying him permission to hold his first election rally in the Metiaburz area of the city on February 25, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi is steadily extending his Hyderabad-based party’s footprint across India. Riding on AIMIM’s success in the Bihar assembly election last year, the party made its electoral debut in the Gujarat municipal polls in the final week of February.
The AIMIM, which fielded 22 candidates in six wards in Ahmedabad, ended up with seven wins in two wards to notch an impressive start. In Gujarat, each ward of a municipal corporation has four seats. While a panel of four candidates won in the Jamalpur ward, three out of its four contestants won in the Maktampura ward of the Juhapura area of Ahmedabad. Those who won in Jamalpur included former Congress corporators Mohammad Rafiq Shaikh and Mushtaq Khadiwala, while the third winner, Bina Parmar, is a new face.
The AIMIM did not field candidates in Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, where the civic polls were held along with Ahmedabad on February 21. The electoral outcome reveals that raising the banner for minority rights and equal opportunities finds resonance among the community cohorts in Muslim pocket boroughs everywhere. The firebrand Owaisi had addressed a large gathering in Ahmedabad as part of AIMIM’s campaign.
Apprehensions about the AIMIM staging an even more impressive showing in the upcoming West Bengal assembly election perhaps led to the denial of permission for Owaisi’s Kolkata rally on February 25. The AIMIM, which had put up posters for the scheduled rally, was taken by surprise.
“We had applied for permission 10 days ago,” AIMIM state secretary Zameerul Hasan claimed. “But today the police informed us that they will not permit us to hold the rally. We can’t be cowed down by such tactics of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). We will discuss and soon announce a fresh date.”
The Kolkata police declined to comment on the matter. The TMC denied any involvement in the cancellation. “TMC MPs speak about freedom of expression, Constitution, dissent in Parliament. But they have two faces–they say one thing in Delhi and do just the opposite in Bengal. If I want to conduct a rally there, why am I not being permitted?” asked Owaisi.
The Metiaburz seat in the city is minority-dominated and falls in the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, which Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, is represents. The AIMIM put up posters with the slogan ‘Awaz uthane ka waqt aa chuka hai (it is time to raise your voice)’. Defending his party, TMC MP Sougata Roy said, “We have no role in not permitting a rally organised by the AIMIM, which is nothing but a proxy of the BJP in Bengal.”
The AIMIM chief remains unfazed. “This is a constant charge against us which is better ignored. The AIMIM will go places where Muslim youth are being denied their rights and opportunities for education and employment,” said Owaisi, about his long-term plan to give the AIMIM a truly all-India character. He announced that the party will contest the West Bengal assembly poll in the wake of the triumph in the 2020 Bihar assembly poll. The party won five of the 20 seats it contested and picked up 14.28 per cent of the votes in those seats.
In West Bengal, Owaisi has been discussing a potential alliance with Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui who has recently floated the Indian Secular Front. Owaisi finds West Bengal conducive to his party’s growth plans as Muslims constitute about 30 per cent of the state’s population. Analysts believe AIMIM’s arrival will signal a paradigm shift inspired by communal preferences. However, of Bengal’s 30 per cent Muslims, about 24 per cent are Bengali-speaking, and many believe it may be a herculean task for Owaisi to win them over.
Meanwhile, the AIMIM is planning to contest the municipal polls in Gulbarga, Karnataka, in April-May where the party made its first foray outside its bastion, Hyderabad, about two decades ago. It will field Ilyas Baghban as its candidate from the North Gulbarga assembly constituency in 2023. “After the passing of former minister Qamar ul Islam, a political vacuum was created and the Majlis will fill this,” said Owaisi.
Significantly, the AIMIM is not joining the electoral race in Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which go to polls this summer. As of now, it has two MLAs and one MP in Maharashtra, other than the seven MLAs in Hyderabad–the constituencies that make up the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat Owaisi occupies–as he strives to consolidate Muslim votes in different states and expands AIMIM’s reach to a national level.
Courtesy : India Today