Three Muslim parties based outside Bihar are contesting on their own in the state, each for the first time and each claiming it will unite the community and defeat “communal forces”. The Bareilly-based Ittehad-e-Millat Council, the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi and the Social Democratic Party of India, the political wing of the Popular Front of India, are looking at expanding beyond their states.
Three other Muslim parties are on the ground, having cobbled an alliance aimed at foiling the efforts of the three contesting. The Rashtriya Ulema Council, the Indian National League and the Parcham Party of India plan to hold public meetings in Muslim-concentrated constituencies and question why the AIMIM, the Ittehad-e-Millat Council and the SDPI have decided to contest.
Owaisi’s AIMIM has got more attention than the other two after he announced the party would contest in Seemanchal, whose four districts account for 24 assembly seats and have a significant Muslim population. The AIMIM is a potential threat to the grand alliance if it can split the Muslim vote.
The Ittehad-e-Millat Council will contest 40 seats but not all its candidates are Muslims. “This has nothing to do with splitting Muslim votes. We are fielding candidates mostly from reserved seats where Muslims cannot contest,” Barelvi cleric M Tauquir Raza Khan told The Indian Express. “We are contesting for the first time in Bihar.” His party has one seat in the UP assembly.
The SDPI’s national general secretary, Elyas Mohammed Thumbe, has announced candidates for five seats, two of them Hindus. Thumbe said the SDPI has nearly 10,000 cadres in Bihar and it is contesting against communalism and criminal elements in politics. He has issued a press release stating the SDPI will create political history in Bihar.
The Rashtriya Ulema Council, which has formed an “Ittehad Front” with the Indian National League and the Parcham Party of India, mocked the three parties. “When you do not stand a chance, it is better not to contest for the sake of splitting the secular vote,” RUC president Maulana Amir Rashadi told The Indian Express. “We will tour every seat where these Muslim parties are contesting and hold meetings questioning their decision. When Owaisi and the others cannot expand in their own states, why are they going to Bihar to spoil others’ chances?”