The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)’s plans for contesting the upcoming local body polls across Maharashtra is giving jitters to the Congress party. While the grand old party has been formally playing down the AIMIM factor in the upcoming elections, the party is leaving no stone unturned to keep its minority vote intact. Besides fielding the top minority faces from Maharashtra including former Maharashtra minister Naseem Khan, MP Hussain Dalwai and Haj Committee of India member Haji Ibraham Shaikh, the Congress has also roped in Telangana legislator Mohammed Ali Shabbir to campaign for the party in minority-dominated pockets across the state.
Shabbir, an established baiter of AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, is the Leader of Opposition in the Telangana Legislative Council. His name figures in the list of star campaigners released by the party for the upcoming elections. The local body polls – being held in 10 cities, 25 zilla parishads and panchayat samitis across Maharashtra – are being seen as a semi-final before the 2019 assembly polls.
Owaisi’s party, which is known for its radical ways, had notched up impressive wins in some pockets of Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra in the municipal council polls in the state last November. In a bid to enhance its footprint, the AIMIM has fielded candidates for several seats in the upcoming polls too.
Besides Shabbir, MP Jyotiraditya Scindia is the sole established non-Maharashtra face to figure in the star campaigners list for the Maharashtra polls. Sources said most of the other principal vote gatherers at the national level had been assigned responsibilities in Uttar Pradesh, where the party is locked in a fierce battle with the BJP.
The Congress list includes former chief ministers Ashok Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde, Prithviraj Chavan, Narayan Rane, former Union minister Mukul Wasnik and Vilas Muttemwar, AICC’s (Maharashtra) incharge Mohan Prakash, Leader of Opposition in the legislative assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, and former Maharashtra ministers Balasaheb Thorat, Patangrao Kadam, Harshvardhan Patil, Varsha Gaikwad, Shivajirao Moghe and Nitin Raut, among others. Former Union minister Gurudas Kamat’s name does not figure in the list even as former MLA Kripashankar Singh’s does. Actors Raja Murad and Nagma Morarji are among the party’s star campaigners.