Thanks to rise of Hindutva, Owaisi is the new poster boy for Muslims

Aditya Menon
Aditya MenonApr 24, 2015 | 15:49

Thanks to rise of Hindutva, Owaisi is the new poster boy for Muslims

The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance would be pleased with the results of the Aurangabad municipal corporation. The alliance has managed to win 58 out of the total 113 seats. But more than that the saffron combine would be thrilled at the fact that they have finally achieved the kind of communal polarisation they have wanted in the state. Asaduddin Owaisi's Majlis-e-Ittehadul managed an impressive performance winning 23 seats, reducing the Congress and NCP to 10 and 3 respectively.


It is evident that while the BJP-Sena grabbed a huge chunk of the Hindu vote, a majority of Muslim have shifted from the Congress and the NCP to the MIM. In Owaisi and the MIM, the BJP-Sena finally have a figure whom they can construct as Afzal Khan in Chhatrapati Shivaji's Maharashtra.

This was evident in the manner in which the saffron combine, Sena in particular, spewed venom at Owaisi in the recent past. Even Sanjay Raut's "disenfranchise Muslims" demand was written in the context of the MIM's rise in the state.

But will MIM be able to replicate its success in other states as well or will its expansion outside its pocket borough of Hyderabad remain restricted to Maharashtra alone?

Owaisi's ambitions aren't as grandiose as they are made out to be. He doesn't seek, as some commentators have asserted, to become the sole spokesperson of the Muslim community. The use of the term "sole spokesman" is itself loaded, associated as it is with the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Even in its bastion Hyderabad, MIM has taken decisions that one wouldn't expect from a "Muslim party". For instance, on three occasions it has made Hindu leaders the mayor of Hyderabad.


His plan seems a more limited one: to take up cudgels on behalf of the Muslim community in states where the "secular" parties have completely failed to safeguard their interests.

Maharashtra was a perfect place for such an expansion.

The erstwhile Congress-NCP government in the state had become unpopular with the Muslim community. According to a paper prepared the All India Milli Council in 2012, Maharashtra was ranked second, after Madhya Pradesh, in terms of "arbitrary arrest of Muslim youth on terror charges". Even though the Congress-NCP made a last ditch effort to support ahead of the Vidhan Sabha elections by approving 5 per cent reservation for Muslims, it didn't seem to have cut much ice with the community. And the BJP struck down the quota soon after coming to power, adding insult to the community's injury.

Given the BJP-Sena's open hostility towards Muslims, with the scrapping of the quota and the beef ban that has harmed the livelihood of lakhs of people, it is hardly surprising that many Muslims in Maharashtra see Owaisi as someone who will fight on their behalf.

MIM made its first impact in Maharashtra politics in 2012, by winning 11 out of 81 seats in the Nanded Municipal Corporation. In last year's Vidhan Sabha elections, MIM won two seats Aurangabad Central and Byculla and dented the Congress in a number of other Muslim dominated constituencies. The fact that Muslims in Nanded and Aurangabad are culturally similar to Hyderabadi Muslims also worked in MIM's favour.


These favourable factors might not exist in other states, thereby constricting the MIM's expansion efforts and this is something that Owaisi seems to recognise.

For instance, Bihar isn't a priority as the Muslim in the state are certain to rally behind the reunited Janata Parivar duo of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad. It shelved its plans in Delhi ahead of the Vidhan Sabha elections, perhaps expecting a complete consolidation of Muslims behind AAP.

Owaisi's next priority seems to be Uttar Pradesh where the Samajwadi Party government did lose its credibility among Muslims to some extent after the Muzaffarnagar riots. The state government is clearly rattled as it denied Owaisi permission to hold rallies in Azamgarh, Meerut and Allahabad.

Last updated: April 24, 2015 | 15:49
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