Eye on Maharashtra: AIMIM plays BJP’s game
Bharatiya Janata Party and All India Majlis-eIttehadul Muslimeen are two sides of the same coin and they seem to be making hay together
They are two sides of the same coin and they seem to be making hay together. If anyone had any doubts that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the All India Majlis-eIttehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) were deliberately polarising the population in each others’ electoral interest, one only has to look at Nanded, Malegaon and now Amravati in Maharashtra where the BJP and AIMIM have been honing their tactics in polarising people by using the same modus operandi-- lead a morcha through sensitive areas of the town on some flimsy pretext, set up a brigade of stone throwers and opponents, inflame sentiments and allow riots to take place. The entire exercise is aimed at bringing disrepute to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government ahead of municipal elections due next year in these cities along with many others.
The fact that the BJP regime has an understanding with AIMIM is made obvious by the fact that the ruling dispensation at the Centre has taken little action against Akbaruddin Owaisi, the younger brother of AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, who had famously said all Hindus would be massacred if only the police could be removed for just 15 minutes. Earlier his brother had mounted a what-about kind of defence saying no action is ever taken against the Bajrang Dal when it makes similar statements but now the two parties seem to have become partners in arms.
According to Dr Sunil Deshmukh, who recently quit the BJP to rejoin the Congress, the local BJP bigwig Pravin Poote has been funding the city AIMIM president to create disturbances and the miscreants are almost always shipped from nearby towns and villages to foment trouble before disappearing away.
The BJP, despite being in power both in the state and the Centre, was virtually swept out of Nanded in 2017 which is the home turf of former chief minister and current MVA minister Ashok Chavan. Nanded is in Marathwada, the former fiefdom of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and has a substantial Muslim population. Malegaon in western Maharashtra has a majority Muslim population, Amravati is demographically like the rest of India.
Since 2014 Muslim youth in Maharashtra had been enamoured by the Owaisi brothers, charmed by their highly educated English-speaking countenance defeated the Shiv Sena, which was in alliance with the BJP during the Lok Sabha polls. Deshmukh was a minister in a previous Congress government but was needlessly edged out when the then president Pratibha Patil demanded the Amravati assembly seat for her son.
Deshmukh contested as a rebel and was defeated despite his Muslim connections after the Shahi Imam rooted for Patil’s son. Then in 2014 BJP president Amit Shah went fishing looking for winning candidates and offered him a party ticket. He then trounced Patil’s son. But that was all the BJP was willing to offer him. Now he is back in the Congress and leading the peace efforts in his constituency. Chavan has a tight grip on Nanded whilst troublesome AIMIM leaders are being dealt with strictly in Malegaon.
The rare unity of the MVA partners has spooked the BJP allowing it little room for manoeuvre in Maharashtra. The obvious covert alliance between the BJP and AIMIM makes the Muslim youth queasy and thus the cauldron boils. It could spill over if the government is not careful.
This is yet another instance of the BJP’s desperation to get back into power by any means in Maharashtra- when temptation and lures did not work with elected representatives, riots might perhaps?
But this relatively and historically harmonious state, where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj trusted his Muslim bodyguards more than he did his Brahmin advisers, seems determined to defeat the nefarious designs of the collaborators that has succeeded in other state.
(The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai. Views are personal)