The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM) entry into Gujarat politics may not have a significant impact but it is definitely going to affect the Congress party.
Muslim community leaders fear that if the AIMIM puts up its candidates in Muslim dominated seats, their representative strength will fall further in the state assembly. Once there were at least eight Muslim MLAs in the state assembly. The number has fallen to three after the 2017 assembly elections.
AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi visited Gujarat on Sunday and Monday and addressed two public meetings, one in Ahmedabad and another in Chhapi in Vadgam taluka of Banaskantha district.
The venues of the meetings clearly indicate that the party is targeting constituencies where the Congress has a presence and its representatives have got elected. Chhapi is the place where the biggest protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens had taken place.
Chhapi falls under Vadgam assembly constituency which is reserved for Scheduled Castes. Jignesh Mevani got elected in 2017 as an independent MLA from here and has now joined the Congress.
The Muslim population in the state is 58.47 lakh – 9.67 % of the total population. Going by these numbers, it should have 18 representatives in the assembly.
There are at least 20 assembly seats where Muslims have a more than 20 per cent vote share, but hardly two to three Muslims get elected to the assembly. “Now if AIMIM enters the fray, it will divide Muslim votes further, affecting the Congress party’s prospects,” feels Adam Chaki, Congress leader and candidate from Bhuj constituency in the 2017 elections.
Chaki said that at least on 34 to 35 seats, the Muslim vote share is around 15 to 16 per cent, but the parties are not taking a risk and are fielding more Muslim candidates. According to him, the AIMIM will field candidates in two constituencies: Kutch district, Bhuj and Abdasa, on Jamnagar seat; and two in Ahmedabad in Jamalpur-Khadia and Dariapur. It is less likely to field candidates in Jambusar, Vagra and Bharuch constituencies in Bharuch district.
When it comes to the BJP, it is “least concerned with AIMIM’s entry,” says Mohsin Lokkhanwala, president of the BJP minority cell, and adds that the AIMIM can’t divide nationalist Muslim votes as those Muslims who believe in the BJP’s one nation theory are committed voters of the nationalist party.
The AIMIM is receiving a good response. Said Sabir Kabliwala, state president of the AIMIM, “It is not decided on how many seats the party will field its candidates. The party is conducting a survey and based on its conclusions, the party will field its candidates.”
This party’s entry in the state has already started denting the Congress vote bank. “See the results of Modasa and Godhra nagar palika and Ahmedabad municipal corporation elections. In Modasa, in second elections 16 councillors got elected, all on Congress symbols. All were Muslims. In 2021, 16 got elected, but nine on AIMIM symbols and seven on Congress,” elucidated Shafi Madani, national secretary of Jamat-e-Islami-Hind.
Though Muslims have a good presence in more than 50 seats, its representatives are less because parties field less number of Muslim candidates. After fielding Muslim candidates, they are left on their own and have little support from the party and the non-Muslim community, that is why their victory is dependent on how much Muslim votes one garners, elaborates Shafi Madani.