THE All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has decided to not field candidates in Lok Sabha elections if the Congress-NCP alliance accept the demands made by Prakash Ambedkar, president of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh. Leaders of both Congress and NCP, however, said it would be impossible to accept demands raised by Ambedkar’s party as well as those raised by the Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksh. “Yes, MIM will not field candidates in any of the Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra if the demands raised by BBM president are met by the Congress-NCP alliance,” said Imtiaz Jaleel, MIM MLA from Aurangabad.
At a rally of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi Mahasangh last week, Jaleel had said that AIMIM president Asaduddin Owasi has made an announcement to this effect. “It is not appropriate to say that the BBM president has said if he gets support from Akola seat, AIMIM will not field candidates for Lok Sabha. We are supporting BBM with which we have formed the Aghadi. Therefore, if BBM gets what it wants, we will not field our candidates,” said Jaleel.
The Prakash Ambedkar-led Mahasangh has demanded as many as 12 seats, which the Congress-NCP alliance is finding difficult to accommodate. At a rally in Amravati on Monday, Ambedkar had said that they have submitted the proposal of contesting 12 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress. “We are ready to hold discussions. If they want to discuss with us, they should not waste time, we are not ready to wait,” Ambedkar said.
Ambedkar added that in constituencies where the Congress-NCP alliance was struggling to find a candidate, the Mahasangh would field its candidates. “The Congress-NCP alliance does not have a candidate in many constituencies. They need our help. We have given them 12 seat proposal, but we are not relying on them,” he said. The NCP said it was holding discussions with Ambedkar’s party. “Our senior party leader Chhagan Bhujbal is in talks with Prakash Ambedkar regarding the pre-poll alliance,” said Nawab Malik, the NCP national spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Swabhimani Paksh, led by Raju Shetti, has insisted that it would not backtrack on its demand for six seats. “We have strong candidates in six seats. Especially in western Maharashtra areas like Kolhapur and Sangli, we have a strong presence, besides two seats in Vidarbha and two in Marathwada. We have not been invited for talks yet. As and when talks are held, we will place our demands,” Shetti said. On what his party would do if its demands are not met, Shetti said that would depend on the outcome of the talks. “We will take the call when the final decision is taken,” he said.
Leaders of Congress and NCP said both Ambedkar and Shetti had asked for too many seats and that would be difficult. “The question is whether they want an alliance or not. We are ready to accommodate them, but can’t meet all their demands,” said a Congress leader.
The NCP, which has opened channels of negotiations, is however, critical of the AIMIM. Referring to AIMIM’s decision of not fielding candidates in case Ambedkar gets 12 seats, Malik said it was AIMIM’s decision and the NCP has nothing to say about it. When asked if the Congress-NCP alliance would take AIMIM on board, Malik said: “We won’t take MIM on board because of the provocative speeches being made by its president. He is treading the communal line, which has the potential to harm relations between two communities. We won’t like to have any connect with such a party,” he said.
Meanwhile, the AIMIM has said that it did not intend to join the Congress-led alliance. “The alliance does not have a strong leader who can draw lakhs at a rally. We do not have to pay a single paisa to get the crowd, while the Congress-led alliance and BJP-led alliance have to pay money to get the crowd…,” Jaleel said, adding that the AIMIM and BBM would put up a strong performance in the 2019 elections.
Stating that “AIMIM was playing into the hands of the BJP”, Malik said that Owaisi’s party had caused damage to the Congress-led alliance in the past. “It has fielded candidates in states where it had meagre presence. The division of votes affected the alliance’s candidates and helped the BJP. AIMIM’s actions and reactions have helped the BJP either get voters to rally around them or defeat Congress-led alliance candidates,” he said.