news Friday, April 24, 2015 - 05:30
The BJP has been of late riding a wave of electoral victories across the country. The AIMIM is also riding a similar wave, though on a much smaller scale.   The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) turned out to be a dark horse during the Aurangabad municipal corporation elections, faring much better than the Congress or NCP. Its electoral gains in the Maharashtra Assembly earlier – two MLAs – and in local body polls in Hyderabad, and a robust membership drive in Uttar Pradesh has only driven up its ambitions.   The AIMIM’s next stop seems to be Karnataka where the party is planning to contest the municipal polls in Bengaluru, even as elections for the BBMP remain uncertain.   Launched only in January in Karnataka, the nascent party has big ambitions, given that it will be the third party identified with Muslims to have a presence in the state.   The party is trying to organise a rally which would be addressed by Asaduddin Owaisi, but the city police have issued orders prohibiting the entry of Owaisi in the city between April 24 and 28.   “I have been thinking that we could contest around 100-120 seats, but we will meet with senior leaders and then take a call,” Bengaluru president of the AIMIM Syed Tabrez told The News Minute.     Asked if the party had roped in any strong leaders, he said, “We are looking. Once Mr. Owaisi comes [to Bengaluru], more people will join.”   According to Tabrez, Owaisi’s presence is key to establishing the party in the state. He himself was made Bengaluru president after he joined the party unexpectedly.    “I had gone for a wedding to Hyderabad, and someone I knew took me to meet Owaisi. I was impressed, and joined the party,” Tabrez said.   He had joined the party on January 7. Just two days earlier, he quit the Congress after being the president of its Gandhinagar block minority cell for seven years. Asked why he quit the Congress, Tabrez said, “I had heard Owaisi’s speeches and he spoke about our problems. If you look at everybody, (BJP, Congress), it is only Owaisi who understands the issues of our religion(sic). No one talks about Muslims. Even if something wrong has happened, people (including Muslims) keep silent.”   Tabrez claims that the party has 10,000 members in Bengaluru, and around 50,000-60,000 members in the state.   Political observer and State President of the Democratic Youth Federation of India Muneer Katipalla said that the AIMIM may have a chance at the BBMP polls given the predominance of right-wing politics in the global scenario.    “The anger that many Muslims had during the BJP’s tenure in government has not gone away, and the AIMIM’s politics is a sectarian and regressive politics,” Katipalla said.   The AIMIM will have to jostle for space not just with the Congress, BJP and JDS, but also emerging parties like the Welfare Party of India (WPI) and the Social Democratic Party of India. Like the AIMIM, WPI and Social Democratic Party of India are also eyeing the Muslim vote bank.   Katipalla said that the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind backed WPI had little electoral and political significance whereas the SDPI had a better presence due to its “RSS-style functioning” backed by the Popular Front of India, referring to the RSS cadre supporting the BJP.   Indian politics is dominated by a sense of hero-worship and when compared to the other two parties. This could be AIMIM’s trump card in Karnataka.    “Hero-worship has always been a part of Indian politics. Owaisi has this quality, and along with a mass following, he may be able to capitalise on a sectarian politics to attract Muslims who have been disillusioned by other political parties in the last few years. It worked in Maharashtra and it may work in Karnataka at present, although it is difficult to predict AIMIM’s long-term impact,” said Katipalla.   Katipalla added, “This may be a natural fear for the Congress because Owaisi may end up attracting the Muslims who are perturbed by the BJP’s rise.”   Drawing attention to the AIMIM’s performance in Maharashtra, political scientist Sandeep Shastri said that the AIMIM had done better than the Congress and NCP during the Aurangabad municipal corporation elections in Maharashtra.   As results were announced, the AIMIM had bagged 26 seats out of the total 113; the party had come second, with the Congress-NCP trailing far behind. AIMIM had captured a section of Muslim and Dalit votes. The BSP, which usually got the Dalit votes, failed to do so, and AIMIM emerged as the beneficiary. The same pattern was seen in the Maharashtra Assembly elections when a polarisation of votes was seen along religious lines, he said.   Shastri added that “the inability of the BJP to pursue an inclusive politics” had made minorities scramble for a party that would protect their interests.   “When they feel that “the traditional parties” too had failed to do this, they would look for a party that they felt would “stridently, assertively, and even aggressively” articulate their interests. That is why you see the AIMIM capturing the Muslim and Dalit votes in these areas,” he said.   With respect to the AIMIM’s ambitions in Karnataka, he said there were many pockets in the city which could back the AIMIM.   “With all three Lok Sabha seats having gone to the BJP, the minoirites may want to consolidate their votes (and back a party they felt would protect them,” Shastri said.    Such a pattern had been witnessed even with the AAP.   “At the local level, the size of the wards is so small, that it is possible to (consolidate votes on the lines of) caste and religion. We’ll have to wait and see if the AIMIM will be able to carve out a space for itself. It will depend on who the minorities feel will be able to represent their interests, and how the elite and opinion-makers in the community use their influence.”  
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