When a majority of supporters, and some office-bearers, of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) are in private appreciating the new developments in Maharashtra, though they still look at Shiv Sena with some suspicion, its supremo Asaduddin Owaisi, while addressing an election rally in Bisrampur in Jharkhand on November 27, lashed out at the Congress for joining hands with Uddhav Thackeray’s outfit.
AIMIM, which is contesting Assembly election for the first time in Jharkhand, has so far fielded 13 candidates in the state. But it seems that Owaisi’s latest outburst against the Congress is likely to have a negative impact on his support-base, no matter how small it may be.
Though he claims that he maintains equidistance from the BJP on one hand, and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress and RJD alliance on the other, he was more critical of secular parties for letting down the community.
He hardly raised issues like NRC, Triple Talaq Act, Babri Masjid ruling, and sparsely mentioned the exploitation of Adivasis and Dalits in Jharkhand. He did not raise the issue of ‘dikkus’ (outsiders), the main rallying point of the tribal movement in Jharkhand.
True, he castigated the Raghubar Das government for neglecting the Muslims and said that budgetary allocation for minorities in his home state Telangana, where his party is in alliance with the ruling TRS, is ten times more than that in Jharkhand.
However, in Jharkhand, where the general public sentiment is not in favour of the BJP, either in the state or the Centre, his misplaced and mistimed criticism of secular parties irked many of his supporters, not to speak of others.
Though he continued to dwell mostly on issues centred around Muslims, he was reminded about the condition of poor and backward caste Hindus only while introducing the candidate, Ashrafi Chandravanshi, who incidentally is a Hindu hailing from the EBC category. Five of the 13 AIMIM candidates come from this community.
Political observers are of the view that Owaisi is not showing so much love for Hindus out of generosity, but because of the sheer shortage of Muslim candidates. Even in Bihar, in 2015, the AIMIM leadership initially announced that the party would contest in about two-dozen seats in the Seemanchal region which has a substantial Muslim population. But the party could not find more than six candidates. One of the six was a Dalit. It drew blank in that election.
Anyway, Owaisi’s over criticism of secular parties and equating them with the BJP is taking its toll.
Even Rashid Husain, a close associate of AIMIM’s Bihar president, Akhtar ul-Iman, disagrees with this stand. Husain, who teaches in an engineering college in Jaipur but originally hails from Patna, whole-heartedly campaigned for the Congress in last year’s Assembly poll and this year’s Lok Sabha election in Rajasthan. He likes AIMIM but at the same time strongly feels that the secular parties have their role to play.
In Jharkhand, AIMIM, in the beginning, had hinted that it would contest as many as 40 seats, or even higher, but settled for much fewer numbers for obvious reasons. In some Muslim populated-constituencies, it had to field outsiders because of the shortage of good candidates.
Commenting on his own candidate, Kashif Raza Yusuf, a businessman from Bokaro, said: “Our AIMIM candidate, Mashkoor Siddiqui, is a little-known person. Us ko to das aadmi bhi nahin janta hai (Even 10 people do not know him). Anyway, we consider Owaisi as the B-team of the BJP.”
Owaisi, according to his supporters, champions the cause of Muslims. They often quote his stand on the Triple Talaq Bill. But what they fail to appreciate is that he failed to convince AIMIM’s alliance partner Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) to oppose the Bill. The TRS, like Janata Dal (United), ended up abstaining from the voting in Parliament. JD(U) took this stand as it is an NDA constituent. The TRS could easily have opposed the Bill.
“Oratory apart, Owaisi had done hardly anything concrete for the community outside his own state. If TRS, its ally, is giving issue-based support to the Narendra Modi government, why is he so critical of other secular parties, especially the Congress,” asked Obaidullah, a Ranchi-based social activist.