“The politics of Bihar is telling all of you to show foresight,’’ Asaduddin Owaisi told his audience in Kishanganj. “The politics of Bihar and the country tells us to note how various communities have chosen their own leaders —Yadavs have chosen Lalu Prasad; Kurmis have chosen Nitish Kumar; Bhumihars, Brahmins and all the upper castes are behind the BJP. Manjhis have declared (Jitan Ram) Manjhi their leader; Paswans have accepted (Ram Vilas) Paswan as their leader.”
This has been the Hyderabad MP’s pitch in Seemanchal — to project his AIMIM as the party that will represent Muslims. The vision he describes is of freeing the community from the fight between communal and secular parties, thus making the agenda of an anti-Muslim consolidation irrelevant. “While Yadavs form 11 per cent of the population, they were given 64 seats by the maha gathbandhan. Muslims, who are 17 per cent, were given 33 seats,’’ Owaisi told his audience, almost entirely Muslim. “Muslims are taken as bandhwa (captive) voters because the secular parties have concluded they can’t go anywhere else because of the fear of the BJP.”
The AIMIM is contesting six seats in the Muslim-majority region, after having targeted 24 initially. What goes against its quest for votes is a fear among Muslims that dividing their vote would help the BJP. The AIMIM’s entry, in fact, seems to have already consolidated Hindu voters behind the BJP.
It is the larger vision Owaisi has been talking about — a Muslim party equidistant from the saffron and secular alliances — that has found an audience among a section of young voters. “Owaisi is telling the truth but our elders are so scared that they want to vote for the maha gathbandhan,’’ said Ishfaq Ahmad, a university student. “I think the only solution to Muslims’ problems is to have our own party. Let the others fight among themselves. What did we get by voting for those parties?”
At his rally, Owaisi cited statistics on Seemanchal’s backwardness to show why voting for other parties hasn’t helped them. “You have been voting for them for years and they were not able to stop Modi,” he said. “Who is responsible for the BJP’s success in 280 seats? Did we ever vote for the BJP?”
Owaisi’s electoral expectations are modest but the party sees itself as a serious contender in two seats, particularly Kocha Dhaman. There is a reason why it feels it needs to open its account. It has been active in UP for almost two years before entering Bihar. Owaisi has said a good performance here will boost the party’s prospects in UP.