A NEW ALLIANCE IN MAHARASHTRA
Can the new Dalit-Muslim alliance dent the BJP’s prospects?
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