Asaduddin Owaisi’s Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is set to fish in the turbulent political waters of West Bengal. After the Hyderabad-based party surprised many by winning two seats in Maharashtra, next on its sight are UP and Bengal, Owaisi told HT in an interview on Wednesday.
This comes after another force that claims to represent Muslims — Badruddin Ajmal’s Guwahati-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) — deciding to contest the 2016 assembly election in West Bengal. MIM will also field candidates in the 2016 state polls.
In the backdrop of a rapidly rising BJP and a fast-polarising state, the entry of these two outfits squeezes space for CM Mamata Banerjee’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), which heavily relies on and enjoys the support of most local Muslims.
Add to this complexity the emerging trend of many Muslims joining the BJP, especially in districts bordering Bangladesh, either out of fear of the strengthening Hindu forces or disillusionment with the TMC.
West Bengal houses 26% Muslims — much higher than the national average of 13.4% —with at least four districts where it ranges between 35% and 64%.
“UP is India’s biggest state and we have set up good bases in 20-30 districts. Bengal is another state. We will contest from both UP and Bengal,” Owaisi told HT.
The MIM’s plan is to tell Muslims in Bengal that Mamata has only pretended to be pro-Muslim and has done nothing for the community. They are likely to raise the promises that she has failed to fulfill.
The AIUDF is piggybacking Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s state chief Siddiqullah Chaudhury, who leads Ajmal’s Bengal chapter since he has clout in the Muslim-dominated districts. Chaudhury has already been telling the state’s Muslims that TMC failed miserably in meeting the community’s expectations.
“MIM has not made any contact with us, though we are aware of their plan. In today’s Bengal, anyone who manages to hold up the people’s voice has a chance of getting votes,” Chaudhury told HT.
Owaisi has also said his party was ready to take his fight for the community’s “development with dignity” to the doorsteps of ‘secular’ parties.
“The so-called secular parties have utterly failed them. Muslims have to be rescued from being hostage to these parties. They are craving political representation,” he said.
Sources linked with various Muslim organisations in West Bengal told HT that the MIM has already established some contacts in Kolkata, Murshidabad and Malda, the last two being Muslim-majority districts. They have also tapped a breakaway faction of the AIUDF, sources claimed.
MIM’s decision has met with mixed reactions.
The BJP seems happy that MIM’s entry to Bengal politics will help polarise Hindu votes, besides dividing Muslim votes, which are TMC’s key base. The Trinamool is worried.
The Left Front, which has witnessed an eroding support base and voteshare, fears that the MIM’s entry will further erode Bengal’s challenged communal harmony.
“Mamata’s policies led to the rise of Hindu communalism, which in turn has created space for Muslim communalism. The need of the hour is to counter all communal forces – Mamata, Togadia and the Owaisi brothers,” said Mohammad Selim, CPI(M) MP and party central committee member.