Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief Prakash Ambedkar’s decision to have a tie-up with Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) for Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly polls is likely to have an impact in the state politics. By forming an alliance with AIMIM, Ambedkar is keen to consolidate Dalits, Muslims and OBC vote bank, which play a decisive role in deciding the outcome of the Lok Sabha and assembly polls. This new alliance is also likely to affect the performance of BJP as there is a possibility of the youth voters who had voted for the Modi government in large numbers may drift away from BJP. Prakash Ambedkar had earlier already displayed his political strength by calling a Maharashtra bandh in January 2018 to protest against the violence against Dalits allegedly by Marathas in Bhima Koregaon in Pune. The Dalit-Muslim equation will have a major impact in the upcoming Lok Sabha election and will spell trouble for BJP whose core vote bank are Hindus.
Subhash Pawar, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader said, “The party had waited for forming an alliance with the Congress for five months but we did not get the deserved response. People had voted for Modi for bringing change in the country and development but results are not visible on the ground. According to me, BJP will not retain power in 2019, but if the opposition parties fail to form an alliance with like-minded parties then it will lead to a hung assembly. We are also collaborating with Left parties, Communists and other left outfits. AIMIM might be aggressive but they are not anti-national.”
Muslims and Dalit youth had huge expectations from the BJP in 2014 as the party had promised to create 2 crore jobs. However, four years have already passed as the country is witnessing a jobless growth. Even the existing establishments were facing huge hardships due to the demonetisation and hastily implemented Goods and Services Tax (GST). Muslim voters are unhappy with the BJP for its failure to fulfil the promises made by the party in 2014. Both Dalits and Muslim voters are miffed with BJP and Congress for merely using them as the vote bank. The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra has already reduced its allocation of welfare schemes for minorities to Rs 350 crore in 2017-18 from Rs 405 crore in the last financial year. Maharashtra has almost 13 million Muslims representing roughly 16 per cent of the population. So, there is a possibility of drift in Dalit and minorities votes going in favour of the BBM and AIMIM alliance.
Sanjay Kokare, President of OBC NT Party of India said, “Generally, there is a perception that if AIMIM and BBM form an alliance, then it will affect the Congress party’s performance. However, if OBC community backs BBM and AIMIM then they will attain success and Prakash Ambedkar will be a contender for the chief minister’s post. I think AIMIM and Prakash Ambedkar are not yet realising the importance of OBC voters. I had spoken with Imtiaz Jaleel for having an alliance with them but failed to get a response from him. If this alliance fails to work then BJP and Shiv Sena will come to power again.”
According to AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, preliminary talks held between both the parties have yielded positive results. “(BBM chief) Prakash Ambedkar will be holding a public rally in Aurangabad on October 2 in which I too will be present. The formal structure of the alliance will be announced later,” Owaisi stated. AIMIM had made a major impact in the politics of Maharashtra in 2012 by winning 12 out of 81 seats to the Nanded Municipal Corporation election. It also had won two seats in the state assembly polls held in October 2014 and came second in six constituencies. The party has been known for creating a dent in the Congress’s traditional Muslim vote bank. AIMIM has also coined the ‘Jai-MIM – Jai Bheem’ slogan to bring Dalits and Muslims together.
AIMIM MLA Imtiaz Jaleel said, “We are not concerned about who is having an alliance with whom. We are concerned about our ideology. The idea behind forming this alliance is that we want to mobilise Dalits, Muslims and OBC that are neglected and used as rubber stamp during the elections. These communities too need to have a representation in the government.”
“It’s an irony that Maharashtra has no Muslim MP. Which type of secularism are we talking about? Why is Congress saying that BBM, AIMIM alliance will divide secular votes? Even if Congress issues ticket to Muslims and Dalits, the voters from other community don’t vote for them,” he added.
Ambedkar’s decision to join hands with AIMIM has already created a jittery in the Congress as Muslims and Dalits have been known as traditional vote bank of the party. Maharashtra Congress Chief Ashok Chavan has asked Ambedkar to not rush through an alliance with AIMIM. The Congress which already had lost the 2014 assembly polls is searching for the secular alliance partners to challenge BJP and Sena in the state. The party is trying to regain its foothold in the state.
Congress spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare said, “Initially, AIMIM had made an impressive performance by winning several elections in the state but they failed to maintain the momentum. Muslim voters have started realising that if they vote for AIMIM then it’s their loss.”
“Liberal voters are intelligent and they don’t vote on caste and religion lines. People need to realise that if they back these parties then they are indirectly helping Modi. In Mahagatbandhan, our doors are open for everybody who believes in the Constitution and against Modi’s dictatorship,” he added.
By Suraj Chandran & Mohit Soman