One description Asaduddin Owaisi, the barrister MP from Hyderabad and the chief of All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslim (AIMIM), does not like is that of a ‘vote-cutter’. But the word seems to follow him in every state where he puts up candidates for elections.
The AIMIM has been often accused of dividing ‘secular votes’ and thereby allegedly aiding the BJP. Many Congress leaders have called him the ‘B Team’ of the BJP. As the countdown begins for Bihar assembly elections, the allegation is back to haunt Owaisi after his party formed an alliance with a little known Samajwadi Janta Dal (Democratic) party led by former MP and central minister Devendra Prasad Yadav. It was called UDSA (United Democratic Secular Alliance).
Rashtriya Janata Dal and other votaries of secular politics dread Owaisi as he poses direct questions to the parties’ contribution towards Muslims. They label Owaisi as a ‘Vote Spoiler’, who could create trouble for the parties’ electoral gains.
In Bihar, the RJD claims to have the biggest Muslim vote bank as a part of their MY (Muslim-Yadav) equation. So, after the UDSA alliance, Tejaswhi Yadav indirectly name-called him.
But the RJD-led Grand Alliance was met with another blow, when on Thursday the UDSA formed another alliance with a rather formidable partner, Upendra Kushwaha. Kushwaha’s party is already in an alliance with the BSP, the Mayawati-led entity.
This culminated in a six-party alliance called GDSF (Grand Democratic Secular Front). The other two parties – Bhartiya Samaj Party and Jantantrik Party- are not so known.
GDSF has announced Upendra Kushwaha as their CM candidate while Devendra Yadav would be the convener.
Fazed with the allegation of being a vote-cutter, Owaisi reverts with ‘Old Cassette’ jibe. He accuses the secular parties of being the Thekedars (Lords) of the anti-BJP votes.
Recently, he asked what happened to these secular parties in the 2019 general election when only one non-NDA candidate won and the RJD finished with naught. He said that they were playing an old cassette by accusing him of being an enabler of BJP’s electoral success.
AIMIM fought on six seats in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election and lost, forfeiting the deposit at five places. It could garner only 0.2% votes but did well in a by-poll.
In the 2019 general election, AIMIM contested only from Kisanganj seat in Bihar and its candidate Akhtarul Iman secured 3 lakh votes in third place. JD(U) candidate bagged 3.25 lakh votes and the winning Congress nominee Jawed Anwar garnered 3.50 lakh votes. But the Kishanganj Assembly seat that fell vacant was captured by Qamrul Hoda of the AIMIM in the by-election. Hoda got more than 40% of votes there. After this win Owaisi asked that could his party be dismissed as an insignificant player?
Interestingly, Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP was a part of NDA in 2015. It could barely manage to win two seats with 2.56% total seats numbering 23 as the Grand Alliance came up with a huge win. At that time Nitish Kumar led JDU was part of GA.
But can Owaisi and Upendra make a difference in the upcoming polls? Senior journalist Abdul Qadir says, “A section of Muslims would be supporting Owaisi. Though the number of voters supporting Owaisi is not much, a few thousand votes can tilt the balance against the GA candidates, particularly the RJD ones. It will certainly help the BJP in some places.”
AIMIM is likely to fight polls on 50 or more seats as the new alliance, GDSF, has announced to field candidates for all the 243 Assembly seats.
Talking about the coalition and Upendra Kushwaha effect, Qadir says that the coalition is a misnomer as neither Owaisi nor Kushwaha is in a position to transfer votes to the other. Some of their candidates may win more by fluke than strategy and their number can in no way be in double digits.
But journalist Deepak Kumar, who is well versed with the caste politics, says that Kushwaha votes would hurt the NDA candidates. He adds given LJP’s stand of fielding candidates against all the JDU aspirants, this alliance can pose some trouble for the JDU nominees. It is likely that JDU also gets some portion of Muslim votes.