Hyderabad: The Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has kept everyone guessing on the number of seats it will contest in the 7 December assembly elections in Telangana. With the filing of nominations for candidates set to begin from 12 November, all eyes will be on the AIMIM.

Given that it is on “friendly" terms with the K. Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the AIMIM is expected to play a key role, especially where there are sizeable number of Muslims in constituencies outside Hyderabad. It is also expected to wean away crucial Muslim votes away from the Congress.

So far the party has announced only 8 candidates, out of which 7 are in its strongholds of Charminar, Karwan, Yakutpura, Malakpet, Nampally, Bahadurpura and Chandrayangutta, in Hyderabad city. The AIMIM had won all the 7 seats in the 2009 (undivided Andhra Pradesh) and 2014 assembly polls. It had contested 20 seats in 2014.

The candidates who won in 2014 were Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri, Kausar Moinuddin, Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, Ahmed Bin Balala, Jaffar Hussain, Mohd. Moazzam Khan, and Akberuddin Owaisi, who are considered to be strong leaders. All seven will re-contest this time.

AIMIM candidates had come second and third in the Jubilee Hills and Rajendranagar constituencies, managing to secure 41,642 (25.19%) and 49,032 (21.37%) votes, respectively, in a four-way contest comprising the AIMIM, TRS, Congress and TDP(Telugu Desam Party)-BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) combine. The TDP had won the seats.

The party also surprised many with its candidate bagging 31,648 votes (23.53%) in the Nizamabad (urban) seat, which was won by TRS ex-MLA B. Ganesh with 40,947 votes. While it is considered to be a strong Hyderabad-based party, AIMIM coming second in Nizamabad (urban) and third in Rajendranagar showed that its influence was growing beyond Hyderabad.

A senior AIMIM leader, who did not want to be quoted, said his party will wait for the next few days before announcing the names of more candidates. The decision is expected to be based on the candidates for the Congress-led grand alliance, comprising the TDP, Communist Party of India and Telangana Jana Samithi. “There is time till 19 November to file nominations. Names and other details of candidates have been worked out, but we are waiting."

Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said the AIMIM might not even contest the seats it did in 2014, given that it will help the TRS this time. “If they want their votes to go to the TRS, AIMIM will not contest and might even canvas for the former. But outside Hyderabad, it will also be a challenge for them to find the right candidate if they want to take away Muslim votes from the Congress."

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