Updated: March 20, 2022 1:29:33 am
Often accused of being no more than a vote ‘katua’ by non-BJP parties, most recently in the Uttar Pradesh elections, the AIMIM has countered with an offer to allies Congress and NCP in Maharashtra. The party has said it is willing to join hands with the two parties “to defeat the BJP and communal forces”. Maharashtra is the first state where the AIMIM won an election outside its stronghold of Hyderabad.
However, such an alliance would have to keep out the Shiv Sena, which is an ally of the Congress and NCP, the AIMIM has said.
Hard as it would be for the Congress and NCP to take up the AIMIM offer, they might find it harder to make their charges against the Asaduddin Owaisi-led party stick after this outreach that the AIMIM called “serious”.
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The NCP incidentally did not outright rule out such a possibility.
“We have had enough of this accusation (of being the B team of the BJP),” AIMIM Maharashtra president and Aurangabad MP Imtiaz Jaleel told The Indian Express. “On Friday, the NCP’s Rajesh Tope came to my house to pay condolences over the death of my mother. During the meeting one of the visiting members raked up that the AIMIM was facilitating the victory of the BJP and damaging the so-called secular parties… In the presence of everyone I offered to join hands with the Congress and NCP. Tope was silent and I am yet to hear from the leadership of the two parties on this offer,”
Noting that the BJP was steamrolling the Opposition, Jaleel said: “Moreover, we want to test the true colours of these other parties which state that we are helping the BJP. We have put out an open offer.”
He also said that if the AIMIM was “communal” for the Congress and NCP, why did they have no problem “aligning with an openly communal party like the Shiv Sena”. The AIMIM offer was not meant for the Maha Vikas Aghadi, he added. “It is restricted to the Congress-NCP. We were never open to joining hands with the Shiv Sena, which is a virulently communal party.”
On Friday, Jaleel had been quoted as making an offer to all the three MVA parties, suggesting that it would help the alliance become from an autorickshaw to a more “comfortable car”.
Tope, the Maharashtra Health Minister, said a decision could be taken on the matter only after consultation with top leaders of the NCP, including Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
Without commenting on what the NCP decision would be, its state president Jayant Patil said: “It is imperative for the AIMIM to take a similar stand across the nation so that people can gradually start trusting them. Today people have lost faith in the AIMIM. I am happy that Jaleel has taken a positive approach. This, however, needs to translate into action… Their behaviour should be in alignment with the ideology of the parties they want to ally with. They should ensure that no communal strife is created.”
However, any decision to align with the AIMIM is fraught with risk for the Congress and NCP, leaving them open to attacks by the BJP of being “pro-Muslim”. The BJP always brings up the AIMIM’s association with the Razakars, who fought against annexation of Hyderabad dominion by the Indian government after Partition.
In UP, where both the AIMIM and BSP were accused by parties like the Samajwadi Party of costing them Muslim votes, Jaleel said BSP MPs had wanted to tie up with the Owaisi-led party. “The BSP MPs were after us. But, despite our best efforts, BSP chief Mayawati refused to have an alliance with us. The result is for everyone to see,” he said.
The AIMIM’s objective was to ensure that votes do not get divided, which ends up helping the BJP, Jaleel said. “It happened in Goa as well, and the BJP returned to power.”
Sanjay Raut, Sena MP and chief spokesperson, ruled out any alliance with the AIMIM. “We will not have any truck with people who bow before the samadhi of Aurangzeb, who brutally killed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.”
In Maharashtra, the AIMIM has been targeting the Marathwada area, which was part of the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad’s dominion and has a substantial Muslim population. In 2012, it was with a win in 11 seats in the Nanded Municipal Corporation here that the AIMIM marked its entry into Maharashtra.
After that, in 2014, the party won two seats in the Maharashtra Assembly, Aurangabad Central and Byculla; contested 24 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and got 0.93 per cent of the votes polled; and in 2019, created history of sorts by breaking the Sena’s two-decade-long hold on the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat.
The same year, in the Assembly electitons, it did not retain Aurangabad and Byculla, but picked up two others, Dhule and Malegaon, getting 1.34 per cent of the total votes cast.
In civic polls, the party has steadily gained, with around 120 corporators and councillors across cities and towns in the state now – making it a contender for Muslim votes in urban areas of Maharashtra especially. A large chunk of the Muslims in Maharashtra — accounting for 11.54% of its total population as per the 2011 Census — are settled in urban centres.
The party’s immediate focus is the coming elections to 15 civic bodies in Maharashtra, including in major cities like Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik. In Mumbai, Muslims number over 20% of the population, though only 29 of the 227 corporators are Muslims. The community is believed to play a key role in around 50 of the 227 BMC seats.
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