Why Owaisi is BJP’s biggest ally and a cat among ‘secular’ pigeons
He has the potential to polarise even Hindus who haven’t read Golwalkar or don’t care much for Hindutva.
- Total Shares
As one of the fastest growing political parties in India, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen somewhat limits its ambitions with its name, which loosely translates to ‘all-India council of the union of Muslims’.
Its boss, Asaduddin Owaisi, is a man who knows his limitations, and certainly his strengths.
He knows that his constituency will largely remain Muslims who believe that Yakub Memon is being hanged because he is a Muslim; or that in Hindu-majority India, the people of the faith have been shortchanged; or that the children of the gilded days of the Sultanate and the Delhi durbar have been relegated to the slums in the shadows of its glorious minarets.
Owaisi understands them. Not for nothing did his party, which fielded just 24 candidates in the 2014 Maharashtra assembly polls, get more than half a million votes and won two seats in its rather stunning electoral debut. Two finished second, eight candidates finished third.
He has apparently decided to field candidates in the 2016 West Bengal and 2017 UP elections. AIMIM may even fight a few seats in Bihar.
Owaisi’s party is unlikely to storm to power anytime soon. But in spite of its limited ambition, it is perhaps is the most useful tool to bring to fruition the ambitions of its purported enemy, the BJP.
Owaisi’s AIMIM has shown how effectively it can split the Muslim vote and take away from so-called "secular" parties like the Congress, NCP and the Left. Tomorrow, it could eat into the attentively baked minority pie of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and some day, even Arvind Kejriwal.
Owaisi is the BJP’s biggest undeclared ally. Not only does it spoil it for “secular” parties, his hardline rhetoric helps consolidate the Hindu vote for the NDA.
Every time Owaisi speaks, his words rally saffron forces around RSS’ “guruji” MS Golwalkar’s words: “Is it true that all pro-Pakistani elements have gone away to Pakistan? It was the Muslims in Hindu-majority provinces led by UP who provided the spearhead for the movement for Pakistan right from the beginning. And they have remained solidly here even after Partition.”
Owaisi has the potential to polarise even Hindus who haven’t read Golwalkar or don’t care much for his Bunch of Thoughts.
His presence in Bengal, which houses 26 per cent Muslims with at least four districts where it ranges between 35 per cent and 64 per cent, or in UP where it boasts to have set up bases in 20-30 districts, could have profound political fallouts. But what will be even more interesting to watch is how secular parties respond to the rise of a force like AIMIM. They cannot play Owaisi’s game without the fear of losing every single Hindu vote. Soft minority-ism is under severe challenge, and if one is looking at ruling India or its states, matching AIMIM at its shrill minority line is not even an option.
Congress’ introspection committees have in its reports blamed the party’s growing pro-minority and anti-Hindu image as one of the biggest reasons for its repeated drubbings. Rahul Gandhi had to trek to Kedarnath and sport tilak this year to undo some of that, and if he is elevated to the party chief’s post, one of the probable places of coronation is the holy Hardwar.
Owaisi or a Badruddin Ajmal’s rise in national politics may force the “secular” parties, who till now have scrambled aggressively for the minority vote, to rethink how to get back bigger slices of the Hindu vote, much of which the BJP has cornered.