After a gap of nearly two decades, the Indian Union Muslim league (IUML), a formidable force in 1970s and 1980s, plans to take Maharashtra politics by storm again and is contesting around 40 assembly seats in the state.
IUML leaders said the party was forced to make a comeback because mainstream political parties had ‘failed’ Muslims. Political observers, however, doubt how much its revival will impact the outcome of the elections.
The party, along with the AIMIM, will be eyeing Muslim votes in the city, which could pose a threat to the Congress-NCP alliance, which has traditionally enjoyed the support of minorities.
The presence of the party, formed in 1948, is currently confined to Kerala. It plans to contest only in Muslim-dominated areas in Maharashtra and has announced its candidates from the Colaba, Mumbadevi and Byculla constituencies. It has roped in its top leaders and ministers for campaigns.
Abdul Rehman CH, general secretary of IUML (Mumbai), said the community is being treated just as a vote bank by all parties. “The [living] condition of Muslims has worsened and no one is making an effort to improve it. Parties remember Muslims only during elections,” he said.
Rehman said his party plans to replicate the work done by Kerala unit of IUML, which, he said, was responsible for improving the lives of Muslims there. The IUML is a partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala.
In the 1970s and 1980s, IUML had a strong presence in Maharastra Muslim-dominated areas and had allied with the Shiv Sena in 1979.
Its Maharashtra unit was led by GM Banatwala, who started out as a corporator and later became a legislator from Umerkhadi. However in the’90s, when Banatwala migrated to Kerala to become a MP, the party was left without a leader.
Shirin Dalvi, the editor of the Avadhnama Urdu Daily Mumbai, said IUML may not be able to recreate its magic. “IUML has arrived on the scene too late, and too close to the elections,” said Dalvi. “People have forgotten the party,” she said.