Hyderabad: A cliffhanger election to the Bihar State Assembly has come to an end with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) or JDU, crossing the magic number of 122 and securing a simple majority.
With Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah giving a clarification, all decks are cleared for incumbent Nitish Kumar to be sworn-in again as the Chief Minister for a record fourth time.
The most interesting aspect of this election was the spirited fight put up by young Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahaghatbandhan (grand alliance), who could have become the youngest CM of a major State, had they won a majority, which evaded them by a whisker.
Numerous factors are responsible for this slip between the cup and the lip! And one major factor is the role played by member of Parliament from the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat, Asaduddin Owaisi and his All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party.
Mr. Owaisi for long has been aspiring to expand his Party’s presence beyond the old-city corridors of Hyderabad. First with Maharashtra and now in Bihar, where the AIMIM won five crucial seats in the Seemanchal region.
His party looks buoyed to focus on more States in the months ahead. Among the prominent people who won on AIMIM ticket in Bihar is the party’s state unit chief Mr. Akhtar-ul Iman, who won from Amour Assembly constituency, where he secured 55% of the total votes polled, which is a huge achievement.
While AIMIM contested in 14 of the total 24 seats of Seemanchal region, their influence surely won votes in favor of their alliance partners Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party across the State. These votes possibly would have gone in favor of Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahaghatbandhan, had AIMIM not been in fray.
This development will have far-reaching implications on Indian politics in the months and years to come. While the Bharatiya Janata Party under the current leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and his trusted lieutenant Mr. Amit Shah aspire to consolidate “Hindu” votes in favor of the saffron party, Asad Owaisi wants a consolidation of Muslim votes in favor of AIMIM.
Though Mr. Owaisi says he speaks the language of Indian Constitution, his dialect, his attire, his speeches does not reach beyond his core-target vote bank of Muslims. He did not make any real efforts to reach out to non-Muslim voters in the states or constituencies where his party is contesting or aspires to contest in the future. And this approach of Mr. Owaisi is equally a divisive ploy like the Modi-Shah duo.
After Maharashtra and Bihar, AIMIM leaders have already expressed their desire to contest in West Bengal, which goes to polls early next year. With the kind of high-pitched religious politics taking place between BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress’s supremo (and WB chief minister) Mamata Banerjee, the ground is fertile for Mr. Owaisi to reap huge dividends in the name of the Musalman or Islam.
In every State where the Bharatiya Janata Party aspires to grow or consolidate its position, AIMIM will have an opportunity. In North or East or West or South, rise of saffron forces provides Mr. Owaisi an opportunity to enter into electoral fray there and his entry would be quite appealing to a section of voters who believe aggressive form of politics rather than a peaceful approach.
With these two forces dragging the electorate in opposite directions, very limited room is available to those who intend to do politics of “Centre”!
(The author is a political communications specialist who has worked in Indian States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)