Despite backing out of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) coalition in Maharashtra, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) might still be open to having an understanding with it in the forthcoming state assembly elections. The Hyderabad-based AIMIM had quit the VBA earlier this month following differences over seat-sharing, and is likely to contest 50-60 out of the 288 constituencies. The single-phase Maharashtra elections will be held on 21 October.
Imtiyaz Jaleel, sitting member of Parliament from the Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency and Maharashtra and the AIMIM’s chief in the Maharashtra assembly, said his party is likely to contest 50 to 60 seats, and is still open to having an understanding with the VBA.
“There are still 230-odd seats, so we will decide," Jaleel said in an interview.
He added that his party is receiving many applications from non-Muslim candidates for tickets. The AIMIM had called off the alliance with VBA after being offered only eight seats.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the AIMIM had wrested the Aurangabad seat from the Shiv Seva, with VBA support. AIMIM’s only other MP is party chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who won the Hyderabad parliamentary seat.
In the 2014 Maharashtra assembly polls, AIMIM had contested 24 seats, and managed to win the Aurangabad Central and Byculla seats. It had come in second and third positions in nine other seats, securing 900,000 votes.
With the AIMIM-VBA alliance falling apart, it is going to be a multi-cornered fight in Maharashtra—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena combine, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance, the VBA, the AIMIM and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) had formed the VBA, a coalition of several scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, other backward classes and Muslim organizations.
A senior AIMIM functionary, requesting anonymity, said it was only logical that AIMIM supports the VBA in seats it doesn’t contest, as it cannot offer support to the Congress or the NCP.
“We will still go by the ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem’ slogan’, since we can’t be neutral and not take a stand," the AIMIM functionary added.
In the 2014 state elections, the Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and AIMIM had contested separately, allowing the AIMIM to consolidate Muslim votes.
So far, the AIMIM has released names of 12 candidates in three lists, which includes non-Muslims.
Hyderabad-based political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said now, the AIMIM’s narrative is likely to change, and it might be along religious lines.
“Unlike with the VBA, where it had a stronger narrative while approaching the public, it will now change back to what it was. Its party leaders will of course react to the BJP’s statements on various issues," he said.
Reddy added that it is also to be seen as to how many seats the AIMIM will give to non-Muslims. In the AIMIM’s bastion in Hyderabad (old city areas), all of its seven MLAs are Muslims, while some of its corporators in the city are non-Muslims.