December 21, 2021 5:57:19 pm
With an eye on the 2023 Rajasthan Assembly elections, Hyderabad-based MP Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has launched groundwork for setting up its unit in the state.
Last Sunday, scores of AIMIM supporters held a meeting in Jaipur to deliberate on ways and means to bring more people from across the state into its fold. They plan to launch an outreach programme in about 20 of the state’s 33 districts in the coming days in this regard.
During his visit to Japiur on 15 November, Owaisi had declared that the AIMIM would establish its Rajasthan unit within two months. Pointing out that it was his second visit to Rajasthan’s capital in a month, he had said he will continue to visit other cities of the state to mobilise people.
“I have held fruitful discussions with some people in Jaipur during my two visits. Our focus is to introduce the party and strengthen its base. We will be working with full preparations,” Owaisi had reportedly said, adding that the AIMIM will focus on Dalits and Muslims in the state.
Rajasthan politics has always been essentially a two-party affair involving the Congress and the BJP. Owaisi, however, said that Rajasthan has scope for a third front because “people, particularly the Muslim minority, are disappointed with both the Congress and the BJP,” adding “It will be our endeavour to provide a voice and political platform to the Muslim minority”.
The AIMIM would seek to capitalise on perceived “resentment” among the state Muslims against the ruling Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot.
“More than 90 per cent of Muslims vote for the Congress but after coming to power in Rajasthan, the party doesn’t talk about issues impacting the minority community. At the recent rally of the Congress in Jaipur, its leader Rahul Gandhi’s rhetoric revolved around Hinduism and Hindus. People from all religions live in India. There is widespread anger in the Muslim community after his speech,” said Javed Ali Khan, president of Rah-e-Khidmat Foundation, an organisation that works on issues influencing Muslims, Dalits and other underprivileged communities.
In his speech at the rally, Rahul had sought to highlight the “clash between Hindu and Hindutvawadi” in the country, saying that a Hindu respects all religions. He also asserted that he is a Hindu and not a Hindutvawadi, and that “this country is a country of Hindus, not of Hindutvawadis”. Owaisi had strongly criticised Gandhi over his speech.
Khan, who attended the Sunday meeting of the AIMIM supporters, claimed that many people in Rajasthan were looking at the Owaisi-headed party as a possible alternative, especially in constituencies with substantial minority votes. He said he was hoping to join the AIMIM once its state unit is constituted. “There are people whose family members had been associated with the Congress and are now looking at AIMIM as an option,” he said.
The Muslim community accounts for 9 per cent of Rajasthan’s population. Of the total 200 Assembly seats, there are a few dozen seats – in districts including Jaipur, Barmer, Tonk, Churu, Jaisalmer, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Nagaur and Alwar – which have significant percentage of Muslim voters.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress had fielded 15 Muslim candidates, of whom 7 won. The Gehlot ministry has two Muslim ministers now.
Advocate Mujahid Naqvi, another AIMIM supporter who helped organise the Sunday meeting, said that as part of their statewide outreach, they have started making preparations, communicating to people about the AIMIM and its ideology and plans.
“Since Owaisi’s visit to Jaipur in November, our outreach programme has started. We are seeking people’s opinion about AIMIM’s plan to build party organisation in Rajasthan. Most of the participants in the Jaipur meeting were youngsters. The dissatisfaction against Congress among the minority community has increased. We feel that the AIMIM will do well in such a scenario,” Naqvi said, adding that “issues influencing the Muslim community such as Waqf property being in shambles etc” have piled up over the last three years.
Some AIMIM supporters charge that there has been resentment among the Muslim community against the Gehlot government over various issues including widespread unemployment, “non-redressal” of grievances of madrasa para teachers and “neglect” of Urdu education, among others.
Several Rajasthan Muslim organisations are said to have voiced their discontent with the Congress government over a range of issues. In November last year, they even held a demonstration under the aegis of the Rajasthan Muslim Forum in Jaipur against the Congress dispensation after the party had failed to field a Muslim candidate in the election to the Jaipur Heritage Municipal Corporation Mayor’s post despite the fact that 30 councillors of this 100-ward corporation belong to the minority community.
Owaisi has maintained that the country needs independent Muslim leadership, asserting that the “political empowerment of minorities” is necessary for strengthening its participatory democracy. He has also been urging Muslims to “organise themselves into a political power” rather than continuing to back established secular parties like the Congress and others, who, he allege, “betray” them after garnering their votes.
The AIMIM’s plan to make inroads into Rajasthan is part of its bid to expand its footprint nationally. The party sprung a surprise in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections by winning 2 of the 44 seats seats it contested. It scalped 5 Assembly seats in the 2020 Bihar polls, where it contested 20 seats. It also contested a number of seats in the West Bengal polls earlier this year, but drew a blank. Owaisi has now said the party would contest 100 of the 403 seats in the upcoming UP polls.
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