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Telangana assembly election: TRS pins hopes on Owaisi’s appeal to win Muslim votes

Muslims hold the key to the next government formation in Telangana with 43 of the total 119 constituencies having over 10% electorate from the community. .

telangana elections Updated: Nov 22, 2018 08:12 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, Nirmal
Asaduddin Owaisi,All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen,AIMIM
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi.(HT file photo)

The dilemma for 26-year-old Abid is whether to vote for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) or the Congress for he fears that chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao could do in Telangana what Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar did in Bihar - align with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the polls.

It is because of this apprehension that a section of the Muslim voters, who constitute 12% of the 36.5-million population in the newly carved-out state, has started rethinking its electoral preferences.

Muslims hold the key to the next government formation in Telangana with 43 of the total 119 constituencies having over 10% electorate from the community. About two-thirds of the Muslims voted for the Congress in the 2014 assembly elections.

The general refrain among Muslims is that while Rao, popularly known as KCR, had initiated substantial welfare measures for the Muslims, he was at the same time soft on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sided with the BJP on critical issues and maintained silence on the incidents of lynching across the country.

“I have never heard him (KCR) attacking Modi and his stand on triple talaq bill has been ambiguous,” added Abid, who owns a mobile shop in Nirmal, about 225 km from Hyderabad.

Also read | Telangana assembly election: AIMIM chief Owaisi accuses Congress candidate of bribery

He waited for two hours to listen to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi as he campaigned for TRS candidate and housing minister Allola Indrakaran Reddy in Nirmal. But Yunus Ahmed, a student, disagreed and ruled out the TRS going with the BJP given that Owaisi is strongly backing KCR this time.

“Asad bhai is our leader. He will stop KCR from aligning with BJP. We will do whatever Asad bhai says because we know he only has the interests of Muslims in his mind. That is unquestionable,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed was part of a group of bikers who followed Owaisi for a stretch of about 5km on his way to Nirmal and back to Hyderabad.

TRS is banking on Owaisi’s “appeal” to win over the support of Muslim voters in some constituencies outside Hyderabad and this is perhaps the first time since its formation about 60 years ago that the AIMIM is openly seeking votes for any other party.

In his over one-hour-long speech, Owaisi listed the measures taken by the TRS for the welfare of the community. He talked about the residential schools constructed by the ruling TRS for the Muslims, Rs 8 lakh subsidy for students pursuing higher education abroad, regular salaries for imams and muezzins (who recite the call to prayer from mosques) and the ‘shaadi mubarak’ scheme, a one-time financial assistance of Rs 1,00,116 being given to parents for the wedding of their daughters. The AIMIM chief, who even promised that this amount would be enhanced to Rs 2 lakh if the TRS was voted to power in December 7 elections, was unsparing in its attacks on the Congress, its chief Rahul Gandhi, the BJP and Modi.

But Telangana Congress minority department chairman Shaik Abdullah Sohail claimed that all these schemes were started by his party in 2004 and the TRS only enhanced the assistance but failed to fulfil the promised 12% reservation for Muslims. “When petrol is selling at Rs 100 a litre and prices of all the essential commodities have skyrocketed, raising the financial assistance is no favour,” he said.

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Sohail attacked Owaisi, alleging that he is being remote controlled by Modi and Amit Shah. “Everyone knows that TRS is a B-team of BJP and the fact that MIM backs it reinforces that perception,” he claimed. “Owaisi is under obligation to support KCR because there are several cases pending against him and his brother (Akbaruddin Owaisi)...”

However, MIM leader Syed Amin Jafri rubbished the allegations, saying they have been facing “false cases” registered by both the Congress and Telugu Desam Party for decades now.

“Congress in Telangana has lost its relevance among the majority of the majority community and majority of the minorities and that is why it lost the 2014 polls despite dividing the state.”

Mohammad Khaja Mujibuddin, head of the TRS minority cell, said his party had not sought support either from the BJP or the MIM. “TRS is a secular party. Both BJP and MIM are communal parties and we can’t have an alliance with them. MIM is backing TRS because of KCR’s welfare measures for Muslims,” he said.

Of the 8 seats the MIM is contesting this time, seven are in the old city and fall in the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat, held by Owaisi.

Political watchers claim there is confusion among the Muslim voters, especially the youth, as they apprehend an “internal understanding” between the TRS, BJP and MIM but admit that Owaisi will influence a sizeable chunk to back KCR.

BJP spokesperson Krishna Sagar Rao dismissed the contention that his party has a tacit understanding with TRS. “It is a plot by the Congress...,” he said.

Also read | Telangana assembly elections 2018: Political parties turn a blind eye to women candidates in seat allocation

For full coverage on Telangana assembly elections 2018 click here

First Published: Nov 21, 2018 23:24 IST