A NEW AL­LIANCE IN MA­HA­RASH­TRA

Can the new Dalit-Mus­lim al­liance dent the BJP’s prospects?

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

With 2019 in mind, the All In­dia Ma­jlis-e-It­te­hadul-Mus­limeen (AIMIM) has forged an elec­toral al­liance with the Bharip Bahu­jan Ma­hasangh (BBM), which has sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence amid the sched­uled castes in Ma­ha­rash­tra. At a joint rally to an­nounce the tie-up in Au­rangabad on Oc­to­ber 2, AIMIM chief Asadud­din Owaisi de­clared that Bhim Rao Ambed­kar was a taller leader than Ma­hatma Gandhi. The Dalit icon, he pointed out, gave In­dia her big­gest demo­cratic tool— the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The new al­liance is eye­ing the state’s 13 per cent SC and 12 per cent Mus­lim vot­ers, who could jointly in­flu­ence poll out­comes in Au­rangabad, Akola, Male­gaon and Mum­bai South-Cen­tral, four of the 48 Lok Sabha con­stituen­cies in the state. BBM pres­i­dent Prakash Ambed­kar says the al­liance will al­ter tra­di­tional vot­ing pat­terns. “We have come to­gether to teach the BJP a les­son,” he says.

It has, how­ever, up­set the Congress’s plan to put up a com­mon front against the BJP. Un­will­ing to ac­cept the hard­line AIMIM as a part­ner, state Congress chief Ashok Cha­van was hope­ful of rop­ing in the BBM. But Ambed­kar is

THE AIMIM HAS BLOWN ITS GAINS FROM 2014: SIX MONTHS AGO, IT DREW A BLANK IN THE NANDED COR­PO­RA­TION, WHERE IT HAD MADE IN­ROADS

firm on the al­liance with AIMIM and has said he would only con­sider the Congress’s pro­posal if it gave the BBM 12 seats. No­tably, Ambed­kar has re­jected a tie-up with Sharad Pawar’s Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party calling him an op­por­tunist.

An­a­lysts say the BBM-AIMIM al­liance won’t work out­side Akola, from where Ambed­kar plans to con­test. Else­where in Ma­ha­rash­tra, they say the AIMIM has squan­dered its ad­van­tage af­ter win­ning the as­sem­bly polls in Cen­tral Au­rangabad and By­culla and the ma­jor in­roads it had made in the Nanded mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion in 2014. Six months back, the party drew a blank in the same Nanded cor­po­ra­tion. More re­cently, Owaisi’s in­sis­tence on an apol­ogy from MLA Waris Pathan for chant­ing Gan­pati slo­gans dur­ing the Ganesh fes­ti­val has per­turbed vot­ers.

This is clearly not go­ing to be a cake­walk. Union MoS for so­cial jus­tice Ram­das Athavale, who has con­sid­er­able clout among SC com­mu­ni­ties, pre­dicts that the BBMAIMIM al­liance will be a bless­ing for the BJP as it will di­vide the votes. In ad­di­tion, the Ma­ha­rash­tra Mus­lim Sangh (MMS), an um­brella out­fit of some 50 NGOs with 20 mil­lion mem­bers, views the AIMIM as “out­siders”. Its chief, Fakir Muham­mad Thakur, says “we need lo­cal lead­ers”.

Back in the BJP camp, they see the BBMAIMIM as an op­por­tu­nity to con­sol­i­date the party’s OBC sup­port base. The rul­ing party is al­ready plan­ning a con­certed cam­paign fo­cus­ing on the state gov­ern­ment’s schemes for the OBC com­mu­nity. Even the Shiv Sena senses that things are go­ing the BJP’s way. “The BJP it­self has engi­neered this al­liance to dent the op­po­si­tion votes,” says the Shiv Sena’s San­jay Raut.

COM­MON CAUSE AIMIM boss Owaisi and BBM’s Ambed­kar at the Au­rangabad rally

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