The All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (MIM) decision to contest the assembly polls in Maharashtra could prove to be a headache for the Congress-NCP combine, which is already dealing with anti-incumbency.
Muslims have traditionally supported the ruling combine, but with MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi busy campaigning in minority-dominated areas and making evocative speeches highlighting the injustice faced by Muslim youth, the Congress-NCP may be on the back foot, sources in the ruling combine feel.
Owaisi is also meeting religious heads and community leaders, seeking support for his party.
While both the Congress-NCP and the Samajwadi Party have been critical of the MIM, going to the extent of calling it an agent of the BJP that is out to split the secular vote, the party has stood its ground. “They [Congress and NCP] have neglected Muslims for decades. More than winning seats, we are here to win hearts,” Owaisi had earlier said. “We didn’t contest the Lok Sabha elections, but even then the Congress-NCP combine was not able to defeat the Shiv Sena and the BJP, so how can they accuse us of being their [Sena-BJP] agents?” he said.
The MIM plans to contest eight to 10 seats in Mumbai, all of which have a substantial Muslim population. Among them is Mumbadevi, one of the few areas where Congress managed to secure a lead in the Lok Sabha polls. MIM’s entry to the fray in Mumbai is proving to be a concern for sitting legislator Amin Patel, of the Congress. Former NCP legislator Bashir Patel and Samajwadi Party corporator Yakub Memon are reportedly both in the race to secure an MIM ticket, though they have denied this.
Byculla, which till now seemed an easy win for Congress MLA Madhu Chavan, has also become a tough bet with MIM’s entry.
The MIM also seems to have struck a chord with voters in Bandra, where Rehbar Khan, a former corporator who was once an aide of Congress legislator Baba Siddique, is tipped to be the MIM’s candidate.
Political commentators feel the MIM is making its presence felt, but to what extent this will translate into votes remains to be seen.
“Owaisi is a good orator who is cleverly exploiting the grievances of Muslims, but his success in the polls is doubtful,” said political commentator Prakash Bal.