The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi has announced its plans to fight elections in Bihar, scheduled for Q4 of this year. The party originally having strong presence in and around Hyderabad (AIMIM has held the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat since 1984) is slowly and steadily emerging as the voice of young Muslims in the country). From a regional party it aspires to become a national force. With this strategy, the party for the first time stepped out of Andhra Pradesh and fought the assembly elections of Maharashtra in a big way.

A section of Muslims, who are fed up of minority vote bank politics of so called secular parties like Congress and self-proclaimed messiahs of their community – Lalu and Mulayam – are getting attracted to this firebrand leader’s style of politics.

Bihar has the second highest population of Muslims in India, the community accounts for 16.5% of the population of the state. The community has traditionally voted for Lalu-Congress combine in Bihar. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s party also has a decent influence among Muslims in Bihar mainly because of his anti Modi stance. 85% of Muslims of the state voted for Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Janata Dal United in Lok Sabha elections in May 2014.

Owaisi held a well-attended rally in Kishanganj recently which should (if not already) worry the grand alliance of Nitish-Lalu-Congress.

Bihar sent 4 Muslim MPs to Lok Sabha in 2014 out of total community strength of 20 in Parliament. In 4 districts Muslim population is above 35% namely Kishanganj (68%), Araria (41%), Purnia (37%) and Katihar (43%). On 3 of these Lok Sabha seats Muslim candidates emerged victorious. All of these seats were won by Lalu, Congress and NCP. In Purnia, JDU Hindu candidate won backed by support of Muslims. It is to be noted that Nitish fought separately of Lalu and Congress in Lok Sabha.

Muslims hold the fate of 24 assembly seats in Bihar (4 districts multiplied by 6 assembly seats each). In another 54 seats their population is between 16.5-25%, sizeable to tilt scales in favour of a party. All in all Muslims have the ability to influence results in 80 odd seats.

The grand alliance is banking on full support of Muslim community in assembly polls ensuring a significant 15% vote share. With Owaisi in the picture there could be a split of votes which may benefit BJP in some seats.

An analysis of seats won by 3 Muslim MPs in Lok Sabha elections of 2014 shows that there was a split of votes among the community where ever more than one Muslim candidate was contesting from these seats.

  • In Araria apart from winner, there were 3 other Muslim candidates who garnered 2.9% vote share,
  • In Katihar apart from winner, there were 5 other Muslim candidates who garnered 2.9% vote share
  • In Kishanganj apart from winner, there were 6 other Muslim candidates who garnered 11% vote share
  • In Bhagalpur Shahnawaz Hussain (36.8%) lost the elections marginally to RJD Hindu candidate(37.7%) as JDU had put up a Muslim candidate who got 13.6% vote share.
  • In Purnia where JDU Hindu candidate won, 5 Muslim candidates got 7% vote share.

Why should Lalu-Nitish be afraid of Owaisi?

1. Focused Approach of AIMIM working on its strengths

AIMIM (unlike other parties) has a very focused approach. It doesn’t fight on seats just for the sake of garnering vote share and getting recognised as a state party. It has a track record of fighting on seats where it stands a decent chance of winning.

Since party won its first Lok Sabha seat in 1984, AIMIM has contested on 23 seats up to 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In 17 of these seats, their candidates have secured the Top 3 positions (winner / runner up / 3rd slot). This demonstrates significantly high impact ratio* of 74%.

*Impact ratio is defined as no. of seats in which the party was 1st, 2nd or 3rd divided by total number of seats contested.

Chart: Impact Ratio of AIMIM in Lok Sabha Polls

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The state elections of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana in which AIMIM has participated exhibits a similar trend. The impact ratio is high at 54% meaning 54% of AIMIM candidates are either winner or runner up or second runner up in the seats they contested.

Going by the focused approach AIMIM is expected to put up candidates on 24 seats in the four districts named above. JDU, RJD, NCP and Congress were leading in 22 out of 24 assembly segments in Lok Sabha polls in May 2014. Presence of AIMIM could hurt the alliance in these seats.

Table: Number of seats contested by AIMIM across states and results

State
Year
Seats Contested
Won
Runner-Up
Third
Total
Maharashtra
2014
24
2
3
8
13
2009
2
0
0
0
0
1999
1
0
0
0
0
Telangana
2014
20
7
2
2
11
Andhra Pradesh
2014
15
0
0
0
0
2009
8
7
0
1
8
2004
7
4
1
0
5
1999
5
4
1
0
5
1994
20
1
3
1
5
1989
35
4
1
22
27
Grand Total
 
137
29
11
34
74

Chart: Impact ratio of AIMIM in Andhra Pradesh assembly polls

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2014: Includes Telangana as well because elections were held together

2. Party dislodged Samajwadi Party as alternative option for Muslims in Maharashtra elections in 2014

Samajwadi Party (SP) has over the past 10-15 years emerged as a choice of section of Muslims in the state especially in Mumbai. Firebrand leader Abu Azmi has successfully created a strong base for SP in Muslim dominated areas of Mumbai like Kurla, Bhiwandi and Mankhurd. The party had its best performance in 2009 when it won 4 seats.

AIMIM put up candidates for 24 seats in 2014 state polls and its candidates finished in the Top 3 in 13 seats. It won 2 seats (higher than SP) and ensured the defeat of Abu Azmi’s son in Bhiwandi East. Essentially it succeeded SP in becoming the alternative to Congress-NCP for Muslim votes in few seats.

3. Has ability to dent into Muslim vote-bank of Janata-Congress alliance

The grand alliance is banking fully on the Muslim vote bank in the state. With tie up of Lalu-Nitish-Congress-NCP and no competition, the community vote bank is expected to polarise in their favour. BJP is also not seen working hard to get a share of this vote bank. Announcement of Shahnawaz Hussain as CM candidate or in charge of election campaign could have helped to garner some votes, but this could have been politically risky.

Muslims in India have not seen a leader of national stature from their community after Jinnah of Muslim League. There have been a few like Abdullahs in Jammu & Kashmir but mostly confined to state politics. Muslims in absence of viable alternative have voted for Congress for years. This vote bank shifted to people like Lalu, Mulayam, Biju Patnaik, Mamata, Jaya, Karunanidhi wherever Muslims found a viable alternative.

Most of the leaders of Muslim community are actually Hindus. For the first time in recent years there is a Muslim leader led political party formed exclusively with the aim of lifting up the lives of community members which is making an impact. Muslims fed up of vote bank politics of other parties are getting increasingly attracted towards Owaisi.

4. Surprise element evidenced in Telangana

AIMIM attained the 4th position in Telangana assembly polls held along with Andhra Pradesh in May 2014. Mind it, party contested only in 20 seats. It won 7 seats which was higher than tally of BJP, a national party. Party is capable of throwing surprises.

5. Ambition to become religion based pan India party for Muslims

Owaisi is well educated – LLB and Barrister at Law – from England. He is known for raking up issues impacting the Muslim community. Good orator like Modi he was honoured with Sansad Ratna Award for overall best performance in 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. People are attracted towards him because of his maintaining equi-distance from both BJP and Congress. He clearly challenges the little done by secular parties for Muslims – number of tickets in elections, number of key organisational positions in party etc. He is a vocal supporter of reservation for backward Muslims in government jobs and education institutes.

Why should BJP be happy?

BJP won 13 out of these 24 seats in the 4 Muslim dominated districts in 2010 assembly elections. Of course at that time JDU fought in alliance with BJP and Lalu and Congress fought separately which led to division of Muslim votes.
This time Nitish, Lalu and Congress are fighting together. Presence of Owaisi could negate some of the polarisation in favour of grand alliance, lead to split of votes and help it retain a few seats. These 13 seats which BJP won accounted for 14% of its total strength in 2010 and important from the point of view of 2015 state polls.

Why should BJP not be over enthusiastic about Owaisi?

Owaisi would not put up candidates in all 243 constituencies going by his track record. So he may not act as a real spoiler across the state. If he manages to win a few seats, for sure would not support BJP in case there is a hung assembly.

Can Owaisi really dent into Muslim vote bank of Lalu in Bihar? How much of a serious threat he will pose to Janata alliance in Bihar? Will he emerge as the deciding factor between win and loss for Janata alliance. Only time will tell….

This article has been written exclusively for niticentral.com

http://www.niticentral.com/2015/08/21/owaisi-lalu-come-330210.html

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