Intro: Major reason for the sudden surge in MIM's
popularity is the absence of an all India party for Muslims. The shrinking of political parties playing on secular platform are also responsible for its growing clout.
All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is readying to contest the Assembly elections in Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, buoyed by its performance in the just concluded Maharashtra Assembly elections. MIM leader, Asaduddin Owaisi publicly stated that he would hold a mammoth rally in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh in December. In Maharashtra, the MIM, which is headed by the Owaisi brothers, Asaduddin and Akbaruddin, won two Assembly seats out of the 24 it contested, and finished second in three seats and third in nine. This performance even surprised its own leaders. The moot point is, it did erode the so called secular vote of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and even helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win the Aurangabad East seat which was a Congress preserve. Knives are out with the NCP and Congress accusing MIM of being communal and of engineering a split of Muslim votes thereby helping the BJP.
Congress MLA Praniti Shinde, daughter of former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, stirred the hornet’s nest by branding the MIM a “treasonous political party” and calling for a ban on it. “The MIM has fundamentally been against India rather than any section of the population and harboured plans for subversion,” she remarked.
|The MIM has fundamentally been against India rather than any section of the population and harboured plans for subversion. —Congress MLA Praniti Shinde|
Hilarious it may sound, but the fact is that UPA I & II did have an alliance with Owaisi in the past, and many a times MIM bailed out the state governments in Andhra Pradesh (AP). The same MIM now counters them by asking how it can be dubbed communal, subversive and treasonous now. Congress’ political opportunism apart, MIM snared one per cent of the total vote share in its maiden entry in the Maharashtra election arena, winning two of the 24 seats it fought and nettling the Congress and the NCP by eating their minority vote banks. After their win, even the Samajwadi Party (SP) finds itself insignificant. Party chief Asaduddin Owaisi now taunts Congress and NCP of political hypocrisy and questions what they did when they handed over almost all the seats on a platter barring three in the Lok Sabha polls to the BJP. Fearing a split in secular vote MIM had then decided to restrain itself from contesting Lok Sabha polls.
Many who saw the emergence of MIM as a force to reckon with confirm that Asaduddin, the party chief is seen as a moderate face. Akbaruddin Owaisi on the other hand is projected as an aggressive leader fighting for the so-called Muslim cause. In fact, his primary claim to “fame” was the hate speech for which he was arrested by the Hyderabad police on January 7, 2013. The police produced video tapes that showed Akbaruddin threatening a bloody war in the country, if 25 crore Muslims were allowed a free hand even for a single day. Even during the Maharashtra polls, the hate speeches continued with a leading television channel replaying the same and calling for action by the election commission. What needs to be seen is how Uttar Pradesh reciprocates Akbaruddin and his vitriolic speeches, considering the fact that it has its own Azam Khan, a firebrand SP leader in its backyard.
MIM, which currently has 7 MLAs in the Telangana Assembly, all from Old City of Hyderabad, and one MP from Hyderabad, is poised for a bigger role. There has been flurry of activity at the MIM headquarters at Darussalam in the Old City, near Charminar, as Muslim intellectuals and activists from all over the country are visiting it since the Maharashtra Assembly results. Such is the hold of the MIM or the Owaisi family over Hyderabad that the results on most occasions during the last few years had been a foregone conclusion.
MIM is historically linked to army of erstwhile Prince Nizam “the private militia that resisted the integration of Hyderabad state into the dominion of India”.
Second, MIM being a Muslim party aiming to represent the rights of Muslims bears the burden of operating in a milieu where it is daunting to be secular, democratic and Muslim in chorus. Third, the erratic politics of MIM for all right or wrong reasons poses a concern for varied sections of population across the country. The vitriolic speeches of Akbaruddin Owaisi, the second in command of the organisation, have done a catastrophic damage to the party in the imagination of mainstream Indian public. At best it can amuse many a Muslims outside Hyderabad with its political rhetoric.
The big question now is, would the Muslims of India wholeheartedly accept the politics of MIM? A section of Muslims are skeptical about MIM when it comes to the question of socio-economic development of the community in Hyderabad.
Majority of the Muslims in Hyderabad, very much like the other Muslim communities in other states of India, continue to be abysmally poor and live in the ghettoes of Old City. It also has a breakaway group called Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) who remains the unforgiving critics of MIM politics.
Locally, ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in its enthusiasm to consolidate in the city is avidly looking towards MIM for an overt or covert deal. The TRS feels it necessary to have some sort of understanding with MIM as the city remains an enigma for the ruling party. The MIM is all set to capitalize on this vulnerability of TRS. The strategy of MIM would be to win a few more MLA seats from other parts of Telangana so that it would be a king maker in the wake of any fractured verdict in 2019. The TRS in a politically shortsighted move seems to be facilitating such a passage for MIM in Telangana politics. Such politics of compromise and convenience of secular parties have always given credence to the communal outfits. The political history if India is replete with many such examples on both sides of communal divide.
Considering Asaduddin Owaisi’s comments on Syed Ahmed Bukhari of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Owaisi has nothing but contempt for him. Calling him a “lumpen” element, he asks whether Bukhari has done “anything constructive for the community. Has he even sponsored a single girl’s education in college? It is only the Delhi-based political parties which feel that he is relevant.”
Asaduddin Owaisi has also dubbed SP as Yadav party and has mocked at its nepotism for fielding all of his kith and kin. Though, so of now, there is no guarantee that MIM will make a big-bang entry in UP or West Bengal in its very first foray, but if it fields a lot of candidates and garners even 20 percent of the Muslim vote, the so called “secular” parties will be in deep trouble. Remains to be seen is, will the voters bite the bullet? And for how long will the Political Euphoria last?
For now, MIM has now clearly sounded the bugle in the political arena that it cannot be taken for granted and that it is a force to reckon with for the protection of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities. Will it succeed, only time will tell!
N Nagaraj Rao (The writer is a Hyderabad based correspondent)