In the business of agar oil, one of the costliest perfumery raw materials, patience is de riguer: It involves infecting the agar (aquilaria agallocha) tree with a fungus over eight years to get high-value ittar aromatic oil. But millionaire ittar baron and Assam MP Maulana Badruddin Ajmal’s patience is increasingly under test.
Three months ahead of Assembly polls in Assam, a turf battle for the state’s 40% Muslim vote share is hotting up. After being edged out as the chief of Assam’s Jamiat unit, Ajmal is trying to hit back.
In a snap decision, Jamiat heavyweight Arshad Madni dissolved the state’s Jamiat unit this week, removed Ajmal as its head and roped in several Congressmen as Jamiat’s Assam faces.
“Arshad Madni and (Assam CM Tarun) Gogoi hatched a conspiracy to remove me,” Ajmal, who studied theology in Deoband, said.
A member of Jamiat’s Arshad faction, Asjad Madni, however, denied this, saying the entire Assam unit of Jamiat had been dissolved for “deviating from Jamiat’s founding principles”.
Using mainly Muslims of Bangladeshi origin as his political pocket borough, Ajmal had formed the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) just months ahead of Assembly polls in 2006 and won 10 seats. Since then, he has been railing against his bete noire, Gogoi.
Ajmal’s growing clout — he was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 — had forced the Congress leadership in Delhi to think of allying with him, a move being firmly resisted by Gogoi.
“This is not 2006. We have strong minority candidates to take on the AUDF,” Gogoi said.
He could now cite Madni’s appointment of several Congressmen in Assam’s Jamiat as proof of Jamiat’s support for him. Ajmal could still queer the Congress pitch by putting up candidates in several seats. “We will contest in as many seats as we can on our own,” he said, alleging that Gogoi was “anti-Muslim” and wanted to divide “Assam’s Muslims”.
The situation is, however, far more complex. Ajmal mainly represents immigrant Muslims, who are often at loggerheads with local Muslims. Locals see the immigrants as usurpers of jobs, land and the state’s scarce resources.