All India Majlis-e-Ittenhadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi has been on a roll these last few months. Owaisi made an impact in the recently concluded Bihar assembly elections and the Telangana Municipal Corporation elections. With plenty of assembly elections lined up in the next few years, the four-time MP is setting his sights on other states – West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
On Tuesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to bring Owaisi to West Bengal ahead of the state’s 2021 assembly elections. Banerjee claimed that the BJP is spending crores to bring Owaisi to boost communal polarisation just like it did during the Bihar elections. “BJPs plan is to take Hindu votes and AIMIM will take the Muslim votes just like they did in Bihar elections. AIMIM is the B-team of BJP,” Mamata said at a rally in Jalpaiguri.
The very next day, Owaisi slammed Banerjee’s allegations and asked her to take care of her party workers as many of them were heading to the BJP. “There is no man who can buy Asaduddin Owaisi with money till date. Her allegations are baseless. She should worry about her own home, so many of her people are leaving for the BJP,” Owaisi told news agencies, adding that she has insulted the voters of Bihar and the people who voted for AIMIM.
However, is there any truth to Mamata’s statement? Did Owaisi’s entry in Bihar elections turn the tide in BJPs favour? Looking back at it now, one can say it did make an impact in Bihar. Although Owaisi won only five seats, it was enough to dent the vote share of the Mahagathbandhan (Congress and RJD alliance) and immensely helped the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to retain power. During the Bihar campaign, Owaisi said that the so-called secular parties Congress and RJD used Muslims as vote banks and have repeatedly not addressed the problems faced by Muslims in Bihar.
Owaisi made the Bengal move after his party's performance in Bihar elections. Knowing well, that a majority of West Bengal's minority have voted for Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the past, Owaisi could repeat a Bihar in Bengal. With the CAA-NRC also becoming a key issue in the upcoming elections, both Owaisi and Banerjee will be looking to play this card to garner votes in their favour. If Owaisi does indeed pull a Bihar in Bengal, it is safe to say that BJP will be the biggest winners in West Bengal.
But as mentioned before, Owaisi is also looking to enter into other states. In the past few days, several reports have come in that the Hyderabad MP is likely to join hands with Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam ahead of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections. Haasan and Owaisi have held talks to form an alliance and have discussed the seat-sharing formula. Reportedly, AIMIM is said to be contesting in 25 seats. Only time will tell what is in store for the two parties when they come together officially ahead of the elections.
From Tamil Nadu, Owaisi’s next stop is Uttar Pradesh. On Wednesday, AIMIM joined the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha (BSM) coalition to contest in 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections. The BSM coalition was formed a year ago and largely contains small parties in the state of UP. Interestingly, one of the major parties in this coalition is Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), a former ally of the BJP. “We will contest in the 2022 UP elections together,” said Om Prakash Rajbhar, SBSP’s chief, on Wednesday.
If things go AIMIM’s way in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh elections just like it did in Bihar, the party could become the third-best alternative at the Centre behind the BJP and Congress. But is AIMIM the BJP's B-team? Only time will tell.