Muslims in Assam will apparently have more options than the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in the ensuing assembly elections.
The All India Minority Front (AIMF) on Friday announced its decision to contest 80 of Assam's 126 assembly seats. These seats are across the Muslim belts of western, central and southern Assam.
The front's dual poll goal: putting the Congress in its place for using Muslims as vote bank and exposing "a sham of a minority leader" named Badruddin Ajmal.
Ajmal, a multi-millionaire perfume producer, is the president of AIUDF.
But, claimed AIMF's New Delhi-based national president S.M. Asif, the contest wouldn't be as much against both Congress and AIUDF as it would be against the BJP and Asom Gana Parishad.
"We are confident of snatching Muslim votes from the Congress, which the minorities know has taken them for a long ride," Asif said, adding his front should rekindle the "old magic" in Assam. "Not many people remember we had given Assam two MPs in Abdul Hamid and AF Golam Osmani."
The AIMF's confidence seems to have been fuelled by electoral figures. Muslims, somewhat loyal to the Congress, dominate 35 assembly constituencies and have a say in 20 more.
More than the AGP in 1985 – it was born barely two months before the elections that year – the Congress had felt the heat from the newly-formed United Minority Front (UMF) that won 11 seats.
The UMF lost steam soon. Muslims had to wait until the 2006 polls for a minority party – AIUDF – to make an electoral mark by winning 10 seats.
Political scientists are not sure if AIUDF will head the UMF way, but few things have gone right for Ajmal. He lost two of his 10 MLAs to the Congress last year, and earlier this week, the Jamia Ulama-e-Hind expelled him.
"My ouster is a Congress conspiracy," said Ajmal, alleging a Jamiat sellout to the Congress ahead of the polls.
The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee termed Ajmal's accusation as a case of sour grapes. The AIMF too has panned the perfume baron. "Ajmal projected himself as the messiah of the Muslims only to shatter their faith. He is nothing but a Congress stooge," said Asif.