It was during a four-hour-long rickety drive from Bhagwangad in Beed to Pune, after covering a rally of BJP’s Pankaja Munde, that Imtiyaz Jaleel, 48, then a television journalist, decided to “re-evaluate” his life.
“After looking at old women sitting in the sweltering heat of Bhagwangad, waiting for a politician to make an appearance, the inanity of what I was doing hit me. I needed to re-evaluate my life and decided to quit my job during my drive back to Pune,” Jaleel told The Indian Express during an interaction at his house in Aurangabad in 2014.
The AIMIM offered him a ticket to contest from the Muslim-dominated locality of Aurangabad Central in the 2014 assembly elections. “The AIMIM, which was looking to expand into Aurangabad, had sent a team to identify potential candidates. The party was looking to project a young, educated Muslim face and was considering a number of contenders. It was actually keen on nominating Jaleel’s elder brother, but he declined. Jaleel’s relation with Asaduddin Owaisi, in his capacity as a journalist, then prompted Owaisi to offer him that seat,” said a source.
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Jaleel, whose father is a surgeon, won by a margin of over 20,000 votes, defeating Shiv Sena’s Pradeep Jaiswal. “I never saw myself as only a representative of the Muslim community. I have received tremendous support and love from my Hindu brethren as well,” Jaleel had said after his electoral win.
Explaining why he chose the AIMIM, Jaleel had said: “As a journalist, I had a chance to visit a charitable hospital that is run by Asaduddin Owaisi in Hyderabad. We were walking by when Asadbhai saw a man in military fatigues standing in the queue. He walked to the jawan and directed the doctors to attend to him first. The jawan said he was getting his son treated in the hospital and thanked him for building the hospital. The jawan saluted Asadbhai. Despite all the brickbats that the AIMIM gets, it is a party which stands for the poor and the downtrodden. I can’t visualise myself being with any other party.”
In his two-year stint, Jaleel has emerged as the face of the party in the state. Holding rallies and meetings to strengthen the party’s base, he was instrumental in ensuring the AIMIM emerged as the main opposition party in the Aurangabad civic body polls in April 2015, winning 25 seats.