Hyderabad: The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) will contest only eight seats in Hyderabad out of the total 119 in the forthcoming Telangana elections, a senior party leader said on condition of anonymity.

The decision is part of its tactical understanding with caretaker chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and could give Rao an edge in seats with sizable Muslim voters.

Though the party had filed 21 nominations, 13 have been withdrawn, said the AIMIM leader.

“Our leader Asaduddin Owaisi has more public meetings planned in the coming days outside Hyderabad, where he will speak positively about KCR (as Rao is known) and the work his government has done. If we put up more candidates, it will split Muslim votes," the AIMIM leader mentioned above told Mint on Wednesday.

The AIMIM will contest one more seat—Rajendranagar—other than the seven the party has been winning since 2009.

These seven are: Charminar, Yakutpura, Chandrayangutta, Karwan, Nampally, Bahadurpura and Malakpet. In the 2014 elections, the AIMIM contested 20 seats and won its seven seats again.

It surprised political analysts in 2014 when two AIMIM candidates came second and third in the Jubilee Hills and Rajendranagar constituencies, which were both won by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Its candidates secured 41,642 (25.19%) and 49,032 (21.37%) votes in a four-way contest with the TRS, Congress and TDP-BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) combine. The TDP won the seats in an alliance with the BJP.

The AIMIM also caused a surprise when its candidate came second in the Nizamabad (urban) seat, securing 31,648 votes (23.53%) against the TRS winner B. Ganesh, who bagged 40,947 votes, showing that its influence was growing beyond Hyderabad. With the party contesting only eight seats this time, it is yet to be seen how the 12.5% Muslim electorate votes.

Political observers have been closely watching whether the AIMIM would put up candidates outside Hyderabad.

“Owaisi has declared that his party has a tacit understanding with the TRS, and both parties together will ensure the Congress or the BJP do not come into power in Telangana. Fielding candidates and making them withdraw before the deadline was a strategic plan. The candidates have been fielded in areas where there is a considerable Muslim population to assess the strategy, strengths and weaknesses of the Congress-led alliance," said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

Telangana goes to polls on 7 December and the results will be declared on 11 December. The main contest is between the TRS and the Congress, which has aligned with the TDP, Telangana Jana Samithi and the Communist Party of India (CPI).

Rao had dissolved the assembly on 6 September citing “political fragility".

If the move by AIMIM pays off and helps the TRS win seats by securing Muslim votes for it, then Owaisi might emerge as the kingmaker.

In Telangana, most of the Muslim population is concentrated in urban areas (Hyderabad and district headquarters), where the AIMIM already has a presence in some municipalities.

The AIMIM functionary said that his party can impact results of seats where there are 10% or more Muslim voters.

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