In the din of the BJP’s spectacular performance in Maharashtra and Haryana, some small but significant developments are bound to be left out of the gaze of political observers. One such is the debut of the All India Majlis-e-Ittahadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in Maharashtra with two seats even as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena could bag only one seat. The victory signifies a major breakthrough for the Hyderabad-based party — led by the Owaisi brothers (Asaduddin and Akbaruddin) — as it finally breaches a new frontier outside its traditional bastion. Moreover, this could just be the beginning of a new brand of Muslim-Dalit politics in India.
Lawyer Waris Yusuf Pathan won the Byculla seat for the MIM by a margin of 1,357 votes, defeating the BJP’s incumbent MLA Madhukar Chavan and the Akhil Bharatiya Sena’s Geeta Gawli. The margin of victory may have been small, but it is spectacular nonetheless.
In Aurangabad Central constituency, though, the MIM candidate and former TV journalist Imtiyaz Jalil won with a comfortable margin of 30,000 votes. Contesting for the first time, he defeated the Sena’s Pradeep Jaiswal.
The MIM was in the fray in 24 seats. Its candidates came second in three seats and third in nine.
Signalling a major shift in its politics, the MIM also gave tickets to Dalits. Vishnupant Gavade contested from Solapur City (North), Arjun Salgar from Solapur (South), Avinash Gopichand from Kurla and Shubash Shinde from Akkalkot. Giving a tough fight to the BJP, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress, all of them managed to reach either the third or the fourth position. Gangadhar Gade of the Panthers Republican Party, which allied with the MIM, contested from Aurangabad and came third.
“Muslims have got nothing from any of the secular parties in India, be it the Congress, the Samajwadi Party or the BSP. Hence, they find Asaduddin appealing. He speaks about resistance, which gives them an illusion of strength. But in the end, the MIM is a polarising agent and this development could be both sad and dangerous,” cautions Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, editor of Siasat, a prominent Urdu newspaper. “They have no political opponents in Hyderabad anymore. Therefore, they are venturing out to Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. It remains to be seen how they do their politics elsewhere.”
Often described as a hawkish party that thrives on the insecurities of the minorities, the MIM’s clout was earlier limited to seven MLAs and one mp from Hyderabad city. However, with Asaduddin’s incessant rhetorical attacks on the BJP and Narendra Modi, the party’s popularity has been rising in other parts of the country, too.
Over the past three years, the MIM has been aggressively expanding in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra and Bidar in Karnataka. In the 2012 civic polls in Nanded, it had taken on the might of the Shiv Sena and the Congress and won an impressive 11 out of 81 seats.
Little surprise then that no sooner did the results come, a beaming Asaduddin announced his party’s plan to expand in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka.