Trouble in store for Cong as AIMIM eyes on UP, Bengal

Trouble in store for Congress as AIMIM sets eyes on UP, West Bengal

AIMIM has declared its intent to contest elections in West Bengal where polls are due in 2021 and Uttar Pradesh in 2022

AIMIM chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi. Credit: DH

Trouble could be in store for Congress all the more with Bihar results suggesting that now even the Muslims, which have been voting for the party for quite a long time, is now getting disillusioned with it and deserted it in Seemanchal in Bihar in favour of Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM, which won five seats in the region, defeating some key Congress candidates.

Now AIMIM has declared its intent to contest elections in West Bengal where polls are due in 2021 and Uttar Pradesh in 2022. In Bihar AIMIM has contested the polls in alliance with BSP. If it repeats the alliance with BSP in UP, then the entire gameplan of Congress to revive its old social coalition of Dalits Muslims and Brahmins could come a cropper. 

While Rahul Gandhi had made serious attempts to woo the Dalit community in UP with his 'dine with Dalit' programmes in UP, the Jatavs among Dalits have stayed on with the BSP and sections of the other Dalit castes have moved to the BJP. The  BSP in UP has often taken a dig at the Congress in recent times, accusing it of being "diffident" in fielding Muslim candidates and raising Muslim issues. In 2017 UP polls, BSP had fielded nearly 100 Muslim candidates.

When Owasi on Wednesday while announcing that his party will fight the election in UP in 2020 cryptically said only time will tell which party he will ally with there, the indication was broad enough. BSP mentor had also attempted to forge a Dalit Muslim combination in past.

As the party Lok Sabha MP from West Bengal Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, took the "vote cutter" in Bihar polls jibe at Owaisi, the latter said that he will fight elections in West Bengal and in the area of Chowdhury. Chowdhury's Parliamentary seat ia Baharampore, where the Muslim population is above 53 per cent.

Muslims have generally given the first preference to Congress, wherever it is in a  position to win. That's one of the main reasons why Congress manages to get a good bargain with regional parties like the Samajwadi Party in UP and RJD in Bihar in the eventuality of an alliance like this time when it got 70  of the 243 seats in the state.

There was already murmurs of discontent in the community about the main Opposition party not being very forthright in speaking up on Muslim issue. What further led the Congress to lose the traction among minorities is due to MLAs in a number of states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat moving in bulk to BJP in succession, thereby raising questions on the logic of minorities voting for Congress.

Even in the Assembly bypolls in ten rounds, BJP gained due to their gameplan of a new sort of Operation Lotus in different states. The home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, Gujarat was its best example, where the Congress had fought a spirited battle in 2017, winning 77 seats and arresting the number of BJP to 99. After three years, BJP is now 111 after winning all eight seats in the bypolls on Tuesday. These polls were necessitated as eight MLAs of Congress had resigned ahead of Rajya Sabha elections this year. In 2018 and 2019 also similar desertions happened from Congress. As a result, the Congress is now down to 65.

Congress, which after the 2014 Lok Sabha poll debacle set up A K Antony Committee to go into the reasons of the defeat, came to a conclusion that its perceived pro Muslim tilt favoured the BJP who used it to alienate big chunks of Hindu voters. The subsequent elections saw the Congress pedaling soft Hindutva and the projections of Rahul Gandhi as 'Janeudhari Brahmin' and 'Shiv Bhakt' became the fad in state polls, creating some discomfiture among the minorities. 

The Bihar election has brought this out. While Owaisi led a very aggressive campaign in Bihar this time, there were sections of Muslims, which felt the secular parties are taking the community for granted and they should be sent a message that the Muslim voice cannot be ignored.

In Amour seat of Bihar, where AIMIM's Akhtarul Iman won the seat by a whopping margin of 50 thousand votes, the Congress candidate was on the third position while the JD(U) candidate was the runner-up. That is indeed a disturbing story for Congress. And unless reversed in time, the main Opposition party of the country will have serious worries, which will not be over by merely dismissing the AIMIM. 

AIMIM's lone Lok Sabha MP from Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Imtiaz Jaleel said that his party's performance in the Bihar Assembly elections was a "tight slap" to those who accused the party of being BJP's "B-team".