Uttar Pradesh: Even after its disastrous defeat in Bihar in 2015, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen is flexing muscle in Uttar Pradesh. In between Bihar 2015 and UP 2017, Assembly elections were held in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala–three states with sizeable Muslim population. The percentage of Muslims in all these three states are much higher than Bihar (16.9%) and UP (19.3%). Yet, AIMIM did not contest.
In Assam and Kerala, the presence of All India United Democratic Front and Indian Union Muslim League respectively may have prevented it from throwing its hat in the ring. But it remained a mystery as to why not the party contested in Bengal, where one-fourth of the voters are Muslims.
A close analysis of the AIMIM’s strategy would reveal that it jumps into the fray in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is a major player and where Muslims have a sizeable population. Both these conditions have to be met; else the Owaisi brothers do not contest.
For example, it fielded candidates in 25 seats in Maharashtra Assembly election of 2014, at a time when the BJP and Shiv Sena appeared strong and the Congress and NCP were fighting separately.
Though AIMIM supremo Asaduddin Owaisi strongly rubbished allegations that he was anyway instrumental in indirectly helping the BJP, many independent analysts do feel that in several constituencies, the presence of its candidates damaged the prospects of Congress and NCP.
A year later, the AIMIM contested in six seats in Bihar but was completely routed.
However, it came as a big surprise when the party decided not to contest Bengal election though it always claims that it espouses the cause of Muslims. If Muslims really need a party of their own community––as it is being argued by them––Bengal provided AIMIM the best opportunity as unlike UP, there is no such party in the state. By 2016 elections, the Welfare Party of India was virtually nowhere in the picture. Yet it did not exploit the situation.
The above examples of Maharashtra, Bihar and now UP compel one to draw the conclusion that the Owaisi brothers are more keen to expand the base of AIMIM in the states where the BJP is a strong contender.
The polarisation of votes help it consolidate AIMIM’s position in these states. At the same time, it indirectly helps the saffron brigade.
Why cannot it be suspected that AIMIM skipped Bengal because it knew that the BJP would not be benefited in that state as it is too weak a party there?
In Maharashtra, the Owaisis might have a point as the track record of the Congress and NCP––especially so far Muslims are concerned––was not very good. But in Bihar, no one bought into their argument due to the presence secular alternatives like RJD and JD(U).
Similarly, there are SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Like in Bihar, here too the Congress is a minor player.
So, it is upto the Owaisi brothers to explain their position. Are they merely opposed to Congress or do they have an issue against all secular parties? If this is the case, then why not put up candidates against Trinamool Congress?
Most political observers feel that they would have contested in Bengal too, had the BJP been a player.
Owaisis need to clear this before UP election. If not AIMIM would again be branded by many in the community as the party clandestinely helping the BJP.