The BJP plans a raid on Owaisi home turf Hyderabad
The BJP prepares to storm the Owaisi citadel of Hyderabad
The Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency has been the pocket borough of the Owaisi family and their party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), since 1984. But now the BJP, as in other opposition citadels, is making a concerted attempt to dislodge the AIMIM. On the last lap of his three-day tour of the state, party chief Amit Shah impressed upon the cadre the need to develop booth-level committees.
But to mount a serious challenge in Hyderabad will require a herculean effort. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and earlier, his father Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, have nurtured the city for over four decades, making it difficult ground for rivals to gain a foothold.
The BJP’s earlier attempt in 1996, fielding then party president M. Venkaiah Naidu against Owaisi Sr ended in disaster. Naidu lost by 73,273 votes and the party has never since made a serious bid to breach the Owaisi bastion.
But now, with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) intent on rais-
THE BJP HAD FIELDED VENKAIAH NAIDU AGAINST OWAISI SR IN 1996. IT ENDED BADLY
ing the quota for Muslims from 4 to 12 per cent with the AIMIM as its ally, the BJP believes there’s a real opportunity. Asaduddin isn’t impressed. “Why are they wasting time looking for a candidate to fight me?” he asks, suggesting that Shah himself “try his luck” and contest the next Lok Sabha elections from Hyderabad. His father Salahuddin won the seat six times from 1984 to 1999 before handing the baton to Asaduddin. “The BJP won’t win in a single assembly segment here in 2019,” asserts the AIMIM chief.
The saffron party is counting on a potential religious polarisation from the TRS’s quota move to improve its chances. As earlier elections have proved, the BJP only stands a chance in the event of a straight contest with the AIMIM. That seems a bleak prospect considering the Congress and TDP are no pushovers in Telangana. Currently hampered by a weak organisation here—the BJP has just 800 booth-level committees for the 7,100 polling stations in the Lok Sabha constituency—Shah is now set on beefing up the party’s presence on the ground.
Yet, the AIMIM itself is not without worries. Despite the fact that both Asaduddin and brother Akbaruddin have always been at hand to help their largely Muslim constituents, the human development index for Telangana’s urban Muslims is significantly below the state average. Nearly half—43.5 per cent of the Muslims in the state—live in Hyderabad.
Conscious of the demographics, challenges and changes, the Owaisis have expanded their discourse from minority discrimination and rights abuses to a campaign for equal opportunities, improved health facilities and quality education. Even they realise that rabble-rousing and playing to the sentiments of poor Muslims will only take them so far.
WE ARE FAMILY AIMIM chief Asadudddin Owaisi visiting his constituents