“We have received over 400 applications from every constituency, but now we have less days remaining before the elections, so we are focusing only on places where there are chances (to win)," said journalist-turned-politician Imtiyaz Jaleel, the AIMIM member of parliament from the Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency.
Only two AIMIM members had won in the 2014 state assembly elections.
Jaleel said AIMIM might contest in 50-60 seats, up from 24 in the last state elections. It is going to be a multi-cornered fight among the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena (SS) combine, Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance, the VBA coalition, the AIMIM, and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The AIMIM had called off the alliance with VBA after it was offered only eight seats. Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) is central to the VBA, a coalition of several Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), Other Backward Castes (OBC) and Muslim organizations.
A senior AIMIM leader from Hyderabad had earlier said that the party had set eyes on 10 out of 36 districts in Maharashtra that have 10% or more Muslim voters.
He had said that the alliance with the VBA was important, considering that SCs and tribal communities, along with 14% Muslims, comprise about 35% of the state’s population.
In the 2014 elections, apart from winning two of the 24 seats it had contested, the AIMIM also managed to come second and third in nine seats. “Unlike this time, last time we did not have the organizational set-up. And it is not just Muslims who are lining up, we are also getting many applications from non-Muslims," he said, without elaborating.
“With Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA, the AIMIM had an ideology with which it could stand up and it gave them a strong factor in terms of approaching the public. It was not along religious lines. But now, with the alliance being called off, the AIMIM’s narrative (on various issues) will narrow down to religion, at least in public perception. We will have to see how many non-Muslims get tickets. Besides, the question is whether people will buy into the theory that the AIMIM won’t talk about just religious issues," said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
This time, the AAP is also set to contest the Maharashtra polls. In 2014, it had restrained from contesting the assembly polls after drawing a blank in the Lok Sabha elections.
Since then, the party has been focusing on building its organization in the state and raising questions over the functioning of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance-led government.
The AAP has also decided to crowd fund ideas for its manifesto for the state elections in Maharashtra. The party has announced names of eight candidates for the polls and is likely to announce more. “AAP will be the #VoiceOfMaharashtra as the current opposition is dead," said Preeti Sharma Menon, a spokesperson for AAP.