Imtiyaz Jaleel and Waris Pathan were a lonely duo on the floor of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, with the BJP-Shiv Sena as well as the Congress-NCP isolating the AIMIM legislators.
The Congress-NCP is critical of the AIMIM as it lost the support of a section of the Muslim community to the party.
On the other hand, the BJP-Shiv Sena, which actually benefited from the division of votes, views the AIMIM as an ideological opponent.
Meanwhile, the AIMIM, which rode high on the back of increasing political assertion by the Muslim youth, is now facing a reality check. It has started facing questions from young Muslims who are getting disillusioned.
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“Tell me of one agitation or one issue that the AIMIM has raised in the Maharashtra Assembly in the last 18 months that can positively affect the lives of Muslims in this state. They had such a good platform. I would not want them to disappear, but I feel that the party has now reached its potential and stagnated,” said Mohammed Irfan, a resident of Byculla.
The entry of the AIMIM in the 2014 Assembly elections forced a rethink in the Congress and the NCP on how they viewed Muslims and the issues of the community. The AIMIM fed off the growing feeling of political disempowerment among the Muslim community.
Till 1985, Muslims were elected from rural and mixed-population areas such as Shrivardhan, Ratnagiri, Amalner, Ramtek, Kamptee, Jalna, Khed, Basmath, Akole, Akkalkot, Parbhani, Beed, Omerga, Partur, Pathri and, in one instance, Bhavani Peth in Pune.
However, since 1990, records show that it was more likely for a Muslim candidate to be assured of a victory only when he contested from a Muslim-dominated constituency. Of the nine Muslim MLAs elected in 2014, eight won from Muslim-dominated constituencies. The only exception was the NCP’s Hasan Mushrif, who won from Kagal in Western Maharashtra.
The fear that the presence of a Muslim candidate would polarise the constituency, leading to consolidation of non-Muslim votes, meant that only 45 Muslim candidates were fielded by the five main political parties in the 2014 Assembly elections.