The president of the Bihar unit of the party, Akhtar-ul-Iman, its lone member in the Assembly, wastes no time in claiming that AIMIM supports the Grand Alliance in its fight against the BJP. If this is so, why did it field its candidate in Gopalganj? wonders Soroor Ahmed

Instead of just discussing why the Rashtriya Janata Dal failed to snatch the Gopalganj Assembly seat (which it lost by just 1,794 votes) from the Bharatiya Janta Party, the need of the hour is to ponder over the non-stop effort by the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen to devalue the importance of Muslim votes and make them irrelevant. The Asaduddin Owaisi-led party is doing this across the country for its own survival, though it is also true that this time it was only in Gopalganj in Bihar that it fielded its candidate notwithstanding the fact that by-elections were held on November 3 in seven Assembly constituencies all over India. Why did it not put up its nominees in the rest five?

In Telangana, its friend, Telangana Rashtriya Samiti was contesting one of them. Is it that there were no Muslim voters in any of them? Even in Bihar it did not fight the Mokama seat.

Ironically, the AIMIM is doing this when it along with Telangana (now Bharatiya) Rashtriya Samiti, is facing a very big challenge from the BJP. This was evident from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election held on December 1, 2020 – not to speak of good performance of the saffron party in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

AIMIM FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL

AIMIM’s nationwide strategy cannot be looked in isolation as its long alliance with the Congress ended only in 2012, that is just a couple of years before the advent of Narendra Modi on the national scene. In fact, the party went soft towards the Narasimha Rao-led Congress in the post-1992 Babri Masjid demolition years even though Muslims across India were very upset with the role played by the then Prime Minister. As AIMIM then faced existential challenge from the Telugu Desam Party of N.T. Rama Rao and subsequently his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu, it was left with no other option but to join hands with the Congress.

Interestingly, in March 2022, its Aurangabad MP, Imitiaz Jaleel, openly announced support to the Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP alliance government in Maharashtra. But Sena rejected the offer.

In the emerging situation, the AIMIM cannot afford to displease the BJP, which is fast gaining ground in Telangana. If the TRS loses the 2023 Assembly poll and BJP comes to power, the AIMIM will have to adjust to the new reality. So it is sending appropriate signals to the saffron party. Verbally Owaisi and company may be opposing the BJP, but in a different way it is repeatedly facilitating it.

AIMIM’S STRATEGY TO WEAKEN RJD

The Gopalganj election result can be interpreted in more than one way. By fielding Abdus Salam, a relatively less-known political entity (against some heavyweights it put up in Seemanchal belt of Bihar in 2020 Assembly poll) the AIMIM just wanted to mar the prospect of the Grand Alliance of the RJD, Janata Dal (United), Congress and Left parties. Unlike in Seemanchal, where there are numerically strong Muslim votes, the aim in Gopalganj was not to win but to ensure the defeat of RJD. And by securing 12,214 votes the party succeeded in its efforts.

There is no dearth of apologists who would claim that the AIMIM has done so because RJD in June last engineered a split in the legislature party in Bihar by wooing four out of its five MLAs. But this is not the whole truth. In 2020 Assembly poll too the AIMIM concentrated its efforts to defeat the RJD and Congress alliance – the JD(U) was then with the BJP.

Apparently the AIMIM might have succeeded in its plan to ensure the defeat of the RJD, but in the longer run this exercise has made the Muslim votes less relevant. Those Muslim leaders who are mindlessly working overtime to see to it that the secular parties are defeated are not aware of the political compulsion the AIMIM is facing in its home turf, Hyderabad. How can it be forgotten that AIMIM’s partner in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the TRS, has been supportive of several major policy decisions of the BJP, for example on the passage of Triple Talaq Bill.

RJD’S ACHIEVEMENT

Back in Bihar it is a sort of achievement for Lalu Yadav’s party as it lost the election by such a slender margin notwithstanding the presence of Muslim and Yadav candidates. The Bahujan Samaj Party gave ticket to Indra Devi, the husband of Sadhu Yadav, the brother of former chief minister Rabri Devi. Indra could secure only 8,854 votes.

That RJD’s Mohan Gupta could muster so much votes and that too when the BJP’s Kusum Devi was riding on sympathy votes, is in itself a big surprise. Kusum contested the poll after the death of her husband, Subhash Singh, the MLA since 2005.

Against the general perception, the fact is that RJD registered victory in several constituencies in 2020 Assembly poll in spite of the presence of AIMIM’s Muslim candidates. Needless to mention the Janata Dal (United) was in the National Democratic Alliance then.

The CSDS study made after 2020 poll said that 76 per cent Muslims voted for the RJD-led alliance while

83 per cent Yadav threw their lot behind this combination. Only six per cent Yadavs and Muslims sided

with the NDA then.

A careful study of this data exploded the false narrative created largely by AIMIM rank and file (especially through social media) that a big chunk of Yadavs voted for the BJP, especially in the constituencies where RJD fielded a Muslim candidate.

With RJD managing to retain many seats in 2020 in spite of the presence of the AIMIM, it would now be up to the Muslims to rethink their strategy. Now with the JD(U) on its side, RJD hopes to do even better even if a section (not majority) of Muslims do not vote for it. As Muslims are not inclined to vote for the BJP anywhere in the country, what will the community earn when a section of its members throw their weight behind AIMIM, which has hardly any chance to win? What the champions of Owaisi style of politics are not understanding is that the Muslims are fast losing their bargaining position vis-à-vis RJD, whose record in fight against communalism is certainly better than AIMIM.

Strangely, the president of the Bihar unit of the party, Akhtar-ul-Iman, its lone member in the Assembly, wastes no time in claiming that AIMIM supports the Grand Alliance in its fight against the BJP. If this is so, why did it field its candidate in Gopalganj?

With six prominent parties in Grand Alliance and the BJP with 77 seats being the second biggest party, the AIMIM has been totally isolated in Bihar. It is feared that Muslims too may face the same situation.

WHO ARE MORE INCLINED TOWARDS AIMIM

The tragedy with the Muslims is that it is the educated class and mostly so-called upper castes among them, a large number of them NRIs, who thoughtlessly champion the cause of Owaisi. The common folk is more concerned about security and livelihood and strongly root for the secular parties, be it in Bihar or elsewhere. In Bihar, a section of affluent Muslims are doing so simply because they are feeling more secured, otherwise they would not have dared to indulge in any such misadventure.

The politically ignorant community leaders have not learnt anything from the 150-year long history of political blunders. With the help of social media, they spread false and outlandish data to motivate young minds.

Like Hyderabad in South India, Siwan and Gopalganj are the top two remittance earning districts of Bihar. A huge section of them are Muslims. Many Muslims of Gopalganj sided with the AIMIM simply because the RJD did not send Hena Shahab, widow of late party MP from neighbouring Siwan, Mohammad Shahabuddin, to Rajya Sabha.

Instead, Lalu preferred Faiyaz Ahmed, who runs a private medical college in Madhubani. Faiyaz too is a Muslim, yet the AIMIM and its supporters are in the mood to teach RJD a lesson. What can you argue before them?

[The views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent those of the magazine.]

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