LATE last month, a team of elected representatives of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) from Hyderabad flew down to Mumbai. Their agenda was specific: Draw the road map for the party to field candidates from a respectable number of wards when Mumbai goes to polls early next year, and win at least 20 seats. The party currently has no representation in the 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
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The team conducted a week-long survey in areas such as Mumbadevi, Byculla, Kurla, Govandi and Malad to understand local residents’ interest in the party, and willingness to vote for its candidates. “Senior party workers and corporators visited some areas with large Muslim population and conducted a door-to-door survey to understand the people’s awareness of the party’s work and their expectations. The findings of this survey will be an important part of the campaign planning,” said a senior party leader.
With the Congress party’s strength in the city at its lowest ebb in recent years, and with the Samajwadi Party having been unable to enthuse young voters from the community, AIMIM leaders believe Mumbai’s Muslim voters will veer towards them, provided the party offers fresh, respectable faces as candidates, including professionals from various fields.
While MIM leaders are yet to finalise the number of seats they plan to contest, the party’s Byculla Member of Legislative Assembly Waris Pathan has unofficially been named as a star campaigner. As part of the promotion work, the speeches Pathan made during the Assembly sessions are now being circulated on all social media, especially on WhatsApp in areas such as Byculla, Bhendi Bazaar, Dongri, etc. “We have been forwarding the videos of our MLA’s speeches for the past six months. We have circulated four of the speeches and one is yet to be sent out,” said Shakir Ansari, a party worker in South-Central Mumbai.
Confident about the party’s prospects, Pathan told The Indian Express, “People have lost faith in parties like BJP, SP and Congress, who have contributed nothing but scams to the city. People require facilities and despite having no corporators in the civic body, we have worked on potholes, fought to increase funds allocated for repair of dilapidated buildings and most importantly for more cemeteries in the city.” He added that during the last Assembly session, he had suggested that some area from the CRZ zones and salt pan lands be allocated for cemeteries.
The fact that the party does not have a single sitting corporator in the BMC has not deterred the party workers, who say their focus is to start with canvassing for support in Muslim and Dalit-dominated areas.
Asked whether the MIM expects a close contest with the Samajwadi Party, Pathan stated that he was confident that MIM candidates would get more votes especially in areas like Byculla and Govandi. “Despite having sitting corporators, the SP was not able to deliver and the people are aware of that. We will wipe them out. They don’t stand a chance and we will win more than 20 seats in the civic polls,” he said.
His enthusiasm is shared by Shaan Ilahi, the general secretary of the party in the western suburbs and one of the likely candidates.
“The party’s chances are very good in areas like Golibar, Bharat Nagar, Jogeshwari, Juhu Galli in Andheri, Malad, Behrampada and Naupada since people here are very happy with the party’s work. If the party chooses me, then I am confident of winning from ward 96, which includes Behrampada and Naupada,” he said.
Spelling good news for the party, the MIM has had a few additions in the past couple of weeks. MIM president Shakir Patni stated that three people, including Akhlaq Ansari from the Congress, Waseem Qureshi from the BJP and Furqan Sayed from an NGO named Sahas Foundation, have joined the party in a span of a few days. “Looking at the performance of the MLAs in the Assembly, people have joined us and many more are likely to join,” he said.