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A Green Lotus in Gujarat? Why AIMIM's Own Leaders Are Questioning Owaisi's Decisions

The seats where AIMIM's candidates are contesting the assembly elections are also where Congress has a sizeable presence. Party workers and experts feel that this time AIMIM will have trouble beating allegations that it is BJP's 'B team'.
AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi campaigning in Gujarat. Photo: Twitter/@asadowaisi

New Delhi: In the middle of November, a councillor of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen from Godhra wrote to party chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

Don’t contest the assembly elections from Godhra because the party is likely to lose and will end up being called the B-team of the Bharatiya Janata Party,” the letter said. The councillor’s advise went unheeded, perhaps because his was a lone voice. 

Not so in Modasa, the other Muslim-majority region of Gujarat where AIMIM has a presence.

A majority of the eight councillors there have threatened to resign en masse if the party contested the assembly polls. Their worry was that the party would end up polarising voters and implicitly helping the BJP – and that this would lead to resentment against AIMIM, which would be felt in the next municipal election.

Therefore, even though AIMIM in its debut election won nine of the 12 seats in the Modasa municipal polls just last year, it has not put up a candidate this time for the assembly. 

Also read: Owaisi and AIMIM’s ‘Expansion’ Has More To Do With Political Survival

As campaigning for the Gujarat polls winds down, Asaduddin Owaisi, whose party is contesting its maiden assembly election from the state, is increasingly trying hard to shake off the ‘B team’ tag that refuses to come off no matter which state he contests. While earlier the allegations were made by rivals and the public at large, that view is increasingly gaining ground among party workers as well now. 

AIMIM workers have a code word for Owaisi – the Green Lotus. Youth Congress spokesperson Subhan Sajid says, “There’s a saffron lotus and now there is a green lotus. His party workers also call him a chuppa kamal (hidden lotus). It is no longer a secret.”

Faisal Sujela, AIMIM’s Godhra councillor who wrote the letter mentioned at the start of the article, told The Wire, “We could not cash in on our 2021 civic poll win this time. We don’t have that network of workers on the ground to reach out to the 2.80 lakh voters in Godhra. So what was the point of contesting just for the sake of it and dividing the vote?”

Sujela says he told his bosses that it would help the BJP. “It is better to gear up for 2027. But while I didn’t agree with the reasoning and statistics that the party bosses gave us explaining how we would win, I, along with others, decided to go along with it,” he says. 

An exasperated Owaisi has now hit out. In an interview to the news agency PTI, Owaisi addressed the claim that the AIMIM was a “vote katua (one that cuts into the votes of another)” party.

Also read: Owaisi Blames Congress for BJP’s 27-Year Rule in Gujarat, Dismisses ‘Vote-Cutter’ Charge

“Why is the Congress levelling allegations against us? Is it to hide its own deficiencies? The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for the last 27 years, only Congress was in the opposition. Who stopped Congress from defeating BJP and why had they failed to defeat them for nearly three decades? Congress must first answer this question,” he said.

“Let Congress win 169 seats and form the government. It is because of its incapability and reluctance to take on the BJP that the latter has been in power for 27 years, it is because of them the BJP is winning,” the AIMIM chief said.

“The Congress has made a compromise with the BJP in Gujarat,” he added.

Congress spokesperson Alok Sharma refutes these claims. “Why has there never been a Central Bureau of Investigation or Enforcement Directorate raid on the AIMIM when the opposition is continuously targeted? Owaisi acts as per interests of BJP which provides it with all the resources and space.”

Interestingly, of the 13 seats it is contesting this time, in at least nine seats, the AIMIM did not put up even a single candidate during the 2021 municipal polls.

Not surprisingly, these are areas where the Congress has a sizeable presence.

Shamshad Pathan, former vice-president of the party, who quit in April, agrees. “Mandvi, Mundra and Bhuj in Kutch; Surat East, Limbayat and Mangrol in Saurashtra; Jamkhambhaliya; Danilimda in Ahmedabad; and Vadgam and Sidhpur in North Gujarat are constituencies where the AIMIM has no presence,” he says.

Also read: In Godhra, Hindutva Still a Magnet for BJP But Lack of Jobs Spurs Opposition Too

Some seats the AIMIM hopes to damage the Congress’s prospects in include Danilimda, Jamalpur Khadiya, Dariyapur and Bapunagar where Muslims account for between 20 to 60% voters.

The Danilimda reserved seat with a sizeable Dalit and Muslim population elected Congress’s Sailesh Parmar twice. He now faces another Parmar but fielded by AIMIM, which has no ground presence here having never contested an election.

Ditto for Surat East where coincidentally 12 of 14 candidates are Muslims. AAP was dividing the Hindu vote here and making the BJP nervous. Along came the AIMIM. Now, the 90,000 Muslim voters who would have otherwise voted en bloc for the Congress’s Aslam Cyclewala, have a chance of dividing their votes between Congress and AIMIM.

The AAP candidate withdrew amidst high drama after claiming that he had been kidnapped, paving the way for a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP with an AIMIM candidate coming up helpfully from behind. 

Pathan says he is disillusioned with Owaisi.

“During the Ram Navami clashes earlier this year, Owaisi refused to meet the victims in Khambat or Himmatnagar, preferring to stay put in his hotel room nearby. But he made much of the tragedy in TV debates and in parliament. The party doesn’t have the clout or the will to take on the BJP,” Pathan says.

Ajaybhai Umat, group editor of Ahmedabad Mirror and a veteran of Gujarat elections, agrees as well.

“The Muslim voter is silent and more so this time. But they are definitely not going either with the AIMIM or the AAP. They have seen the former’s performance in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and recently in Bihar and have realised his game. As far as AAP is concerned, they have seen the party’s stand vis-à-vis the Tablighi Jamat issue in Delhi, Bilkis Bano convicts’ sentence remission, Teesta Setalvad’s arrest, the flogging of the Dalit boy recently, the use of bulldozers against Muslims and more recently, the plea that photos of deities Ganesh and Laxmi be printed on currency,” Umat says.

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