Asaduddin Owaisi tried to fill the vacuum in the top echelon of Indian Muslims
For every action, there is a reaction. That is the law of nature and is effective even in the realm of politics. Identity politics of both Hindus and Muslims have started ever since Mahatma Gandhi took reins of Congress. Before that Muhammad Ali Jinnah used to be the protégé of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Muhammad Iqbal penned “Saare Jahan Se Achcha.” Not that everything was goody-goody, but it was not even baddy-baddy. Independence and the memories of partition pushed identity politics to back but lived in isolated pockets. The way the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty implemented secularism caused both rises of Hindu nationalism and ensured Muslim’s vote bank remained poor and weak.
However, in the last two to five years, slowly, but steadily, Muslim politics were revived. The resurgence was primarily caused because BJP was seen as a Hindu nationalist party. The way Hindu nationalism has emerged as a reactionary force to the ill-implemented secularism, Muslim identity politics started thriving as a reaction to the rise and rise of Narendra Modi and BJP. In a world where words are perceived to define character than deeds, it is only natural such reactionary mechanisms flourish.
Disappointed with various Muslim leaders from Congress and many other regional parties have flocked to Owaisi, wherever he has gone.
The Muslim vote bank shifted its loyalty to regional parties after Mandal-Kamandal politics have become the focal points of Indian politics. Then came Modi, and BJP caused caste-based vote banks to bankrupt. Muslim vote bank, which was part of many regional alliances with caste-based vote banks was forced to take stock of the changed situation. The extraordinary intelligence of Rahul Gandhi in ensuring the footprint of Congress shrunk with time made it clear that it is a waste to vote for Congress. Muslims convinced by Modi might be voting for him. But, those who go by the image projected are in need of a new party to support. All this was happening while the leader of Hindu nationalists, Narendra Modi was trying to practice secularism and implement socialism. Though he could reap electoral benefits because of socialist policies, the continuous political slugfest against stopping preferential treatment to minorities didn’t help him much on secularism. And, there was a vacuum in the political leadership of Muslims.
Owaisi a secularist turned fundamentalist
Asaduddin Owaisi tried to fill the vacuum in the top echelon of Indian Muslims. Like Jinnah, Owaisi was educated, intelligent, and politically suave. The only difference was Jinnah was a secularist turned into a fundamentalist, while Owaisi has deep roots in fundamentalism but try to project himself as a nationalist. Disappointed with various Muslim leaders from Congress and many other regional parties have flocked to Owaisi, wherever he has gone.
First, he entered the land of Shiv Sena and that gave him the confidence to expand his political venture across India. Well, now he has made an impression in the north also by winning few seats on his own in the recently concluded Bihar elections. Perhaps, he also played a role that was equal to, if not more than the role played by Chirag Paswan. While the traditional regional parties and Congress cried foul over his expansionism, he shrewdly reminded them how they milked Muslims since independence and left high and dry. From Bihar in the north, he hopped to Tamilnadu in the South, where he allied with Kamal Hassan’s party that will be trying its hand in the next assembly elections. And, Asaduddin has already declared his party will be contesting West Bengal assembly elections scheduled in 2021.
AIMIM aiming for West Bengal assembly elections 2021
This declaration has immediately caused a fiery response from Mamata Banerjee, who was already jittered with the progress BJP has made in state politics. Like all others who were ditched by the Muslim vote bank, she too accused Owaisi of helping BJP by dividing the anti-BJP vote. What these people forgot when they accuse Owaisi of snatching the Muslim vote was, they were indirectly selling his image as the sole Muslim representative in the current political scenario. Owaisi was taking strength from such leaders and was transforming All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) into a national party, even though he could influence voters in only a few constituencies. But, in states with a sizeable Muslim population, his presence will be crucial and often be the determining factor in decimating the so-called secular parties. Well, he was waiting for the regional parties to recognize his ability to deliver Muslim votes on a platter. After a few more demonstrations, these parties will vie to ally with AIMIM. That will place AIMIM in the league of the Congress and the Left parties, which have a national presence even as they can’t win any election on their own.
Considering the international impact, he may be causing, Owaisi may perhaps lend a hand to stabilize Indian polity. Though Jinnah was more secular and optimistic, Owaisi is shrewder and realistic.
As the old age adage goes, Bengal sees today what India sees tomorrow. Though this phrase has lost its relevance after three decades of Marxist rule in the state, Bengal may again be showing the way for India in the decades to come. The way the flow of TMC leaders changed from a trickle to a stream, Mamata has much to worry about the coming elections. The way Mamata transformed herself from being a fiery opponent of Bangladeshi migrants to the Chairperson of the Muslim vote bank in Bengal, coupled with the ineptness of both Congress and once-powerful Marxists helped BJP to make strong inroads in the state.
As Mamata continues to lose her lieutenants one after another, her reliance on the Muslim vote bank is now highly crucial as this is the one vote bank that may not go to BJP, at least not in the immediate future. However, AIMIM contesting West Bengal elections will change the political scenario drastically. It is no more a choice for Mamata to ally with AIMIM, but a necessity. One thing Mamata worries about is she got a match in Owaisi, who is also a seasoned and shrewd politician. And, in all probability, he would extract his share of power and suddenly Mamata will find almost in the situation in which Uddhav Thackeray is. Still, for Mamata, this is the best chance to prevent BJP from snatching power from her.
Once, this model of allying with AIMIM is tested in Bengal, Owaisi will be replicate this strategy wherever possible. In the next five years, from Municipalities to Rajya Sabha elections, AIMIM will be dealing with a host of parties – similar to the role of Congress in the late nineties.
For the entire opposition, allying with AIMIM may look attractive prospect. However, this proposition is fraught with lots of problems. For one, BJP will try to compare Owaisi to Jinnah, at which Owaisi will be very happy and thankful. Second, MIM going national means BJP transforming into a much stronger party in all states. Though Owaisi may be happy about being compared to Jinnah, not all Muslims will be happy on even remembering what Jinnah did to India, because they now know from Pakistan and Bangladesh about what is in store for them in any Islamic country.
Despite such apprehensions, the possible evolution of AIMIM into a national political platform for Indian Muslims will be observed by the entire world. The growing Muslim population in the otherwise Christian Europe has already forced them to take note of changing demography and so the social behavior of those countries. Soon, they will be looking at the prospect of having a political system that caters to the increased Muslim population.
Considering the international impact, he may be causing, Owaisi may perhaps lend a hand to stabilize Indian polity. Though Jinnah was more secular and optimistic, Owaisi is shrewder and realistic. He doesn’t harbor any fantasies of replicating Jinnah’s actions in the changed scenario. Even a little bit of instability he causes to the Indian domain will have international repercussions. So, he would be working for the betterment of Indian Muslims, and that is good for India, as a whole.
Of course, all of this is maybe simply a part of Owaisi’s vision 2030 document. If we talk of the immediate future, now Prashant Kishor shall talk to Mamata and convince her to ally with MIM. Of course, she should be ready to face the counter-attacks by BJP and alienating some of her core voters, if Owaisi is in. It would be interesting to watch how Prashant and Mamata will handle Owaisi. Finally, if Mamata loses West Bengal even after allying with AIMIM, that will mark the end of her career, though Owaisi will emerge without any scratch.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.