The party’s foray in Maharashtra will split secular votes in the state.
The All India Majis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (MIM) decision to contest election from Maharashtra is giving jitters to Congress-NCP as there is a possibility of division of secular votes in the state. The Congress-NCP which used to rely heavily on the minority votes which comprise around 15 per cent of the votes polled is worried about poll results. The MIM plans to offer a better alternative for the minority community which has often been used as a vote bank by the Congress-NCP. Right now there is inadequate representation of minorities in the state cabinet as the community lags behind in socio-economic development. The party plans to field candidates from the minority community in Assembly seats that are dominated by the community.
The MIM has fielded 25 candidates including 13 candidates in Mumbai city in the Assembly elections of Maharashtra state scheduled to be held on Oct 15. In Mumbai, some of the seats where the MIM could eat into the Congress’ Muslim vote share are Byculla, Versova, Shivaji Nagar, Bandra East and West, Kurla, Mumbra and Bhiwandi.
The Congress-NCP has termed the MIM as an agent of Shiv-Sena BJP. On the other hand, MIM leaders Hyderabad MP Assauddin Owaisi and MLA Akbarruddin Owaisi accused the Congress and NCP of playing communal politics by claiming themselves as secular parties.
Both leaders have been vigorously campaigning in Maharashtra.
The two Assembly pockets are considered Congress bastions with sitting MLAs Amin Patel in Mumbadevi and Madhu Chavan in Byculla, who won with 45,285 and 36,302 votes, respectively, during 2009 Assembly elections.
Asaduddin Owaisi said that his party succeeded in bringing the Muslims and Dalits in Maharashtra on a common platform to give a tough fight against Shiv Sena as well as the Congress and NCP. He said “the split between the Shiv Sena and BJP will ensure party’s victory.
The MIM candidate for Byculla, Waris Pathan, said, “People are tired of Congress rule. We hope to get Muslim votes because of that. Additionally, the split in alliances have created a space for our party.”
The sweeping victory of the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections and anti-incumbency factor had softened the Muslim community’s stand towards them, BJP party members said. Shabbir Ansari, founder-president of the All-India Muslim OBC Organisation, said, “The secular factor will no longer work on Muslims. They need representation. They feel their interests have been ignored for too long.”
Amin Patel Congress candidate from Mumbadevi said, “This will not affect us. People are aware that if secular votes get split then communal parties will benefit out of it. So they will not fall in this trap.”
When asked a popular face like Mohammed Rafi’s son Shahid Rafi is contesting from this area, he replied, “It won’t make any difference to me. People love me and they have seen my work.”
Geeta Gawli, Corporator from Byculla said, “MIM’s intention is to divide votes. The party has failed to resolve the water scarcity problem in Hyderabad. People don’t vote for com and they vote for kaam (work). I have done good work in my constituency.”
Imitiaz Jaleel former journalist who is contesting from Aurangabad Central said, “If they are alleging that we are dividing secular votes then what they have done in the last 65 years? The results will show who is with whom. We are seeking votes in the name of development and not on religion.”
Byculla’s BJP candidate Madhu Chavan said, “We don’t anticipate that MIM will eat into our votes. They will make a dent in Congress’ vote bank and benefit us instead.”
Political commentators feel the MIM is making its presence felt, but to what extent this will translate into votes remains to be seen.
“Owaisi is a good orator who is cleverly exploiting the grievances of Muslims, but his success in the polls is doubtful,” said political commentator Prakash Bal.