The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) fought a high-octane Aurangabad Municipal election and with vigour that is not generally associated with civic polls. The party entered the fray against the backdrop of a defeat of its Bandra East Raja Rahbar candidate in a by-election where he received only about 15,000 votes, around 8,000 less than his tally in the previous contest. It was observed that the Muslims in Bandra had largely voted for the Congress candidate Narayan Rane, who lost to BJP.
It was primarily on account of this result, that it was construed that the performance of the MIM in Aurangabad would be less than what the party has been expecting. But the MIM sprung a surprise and won 25 of the 53 seats it contested and became the second largest party after the Shiv Sena with 29 seats. The BJP had to be content with 22 seats in the AMC which had a total strength of 113.
The results go out to prove several points. One, that the MIM’s winning two seats in the Maharashtra assembly elections—one from Aurangabad Central and another from Byculla – was not a flash in the pan phenomenon. There was a craving for a new party then and it continues to exist. Two, it has bigger plans for Mumbai and Bengaluru municipal elections and the assembly polls in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Three, the MIM has improved its relations with the Dalits in Maharashtra. Of the 53 wards it contested, the MIM gave tickets to 13 non-Muslims – 12 Dalits and one BC. Of these, four Dalits and a BC have emerged victorious.
The slogan that Jai Meem(Muslims); Jai Bheem (Ambedkar) appears to be gaining strength.
The possibilities of Aurangabad being ready for the MIM became clear to the leadership in Hyderabad with the results of the recent assembly elections. From Aurangabad the party had fielded three members in the assembly elections of which only one — Imtiaz Jaleel — romped home from Aurangabad Central. The other two lost but won considerable votes. The number of votes Jaleel received was 61,843; in Aurangabad East Dr Abdul Ghaffar Quadri scored 60,268, taking up party position to two in the assembly segment where the BJP had won. The MIM supported candidate of Republican Panther Party Gangadhar Sukhdev Gaade could manage in Aurangabad West 35,348 votes where Shiv Sena won and BJP stood second. The MIM had secured third position. The total votes the MIM had garnered in Aurangabad were thus 1,57,459.
With this figure in mind the MIM sent Nampally legislator Jafar Hussain Meraj to consolidate the party’s position by launching a membership drive and also through other means. Aurangabad Central MLA Imtiaz Jaleel and Aurangabad unit president Javed Quraishi were asked to support Meraj. When the civic polls were announced, the craving for party tickets was so great that it had to struggle to choose the right candidate for the right ward. Over 530 candidates had approached for 53 seats. Though a four-member local committee had been formed to decide on the candidates, serious fights broke out among the potential contestants and their supporters. At the end, at least five candidates who were denied ticket decided to fight independently. All of them have won.
What is working in favour of the MIM are two things. Chief among them is the failure of the secular parties, both the Congress and the NCP, to rise to the expectations of Muslims in times of need. Since there was no alternative, the Muslims were sailing with them. Now that MIM has emerged as an alternative force, they have decided to throw their weight behind it.
According to an observer in Aurangabad, the Muslims or Dalits do not believe that all their woes could be solved by the MIM. But they are looking at MIM as a party that would voice their grievances and desperations and strive to correct the situation.
Another observer said that the impressive victory of the MIM would give more confidence to its leadership to enter the poll frays elsewhere, especially in Bengaluru, UP and West Bengal.
There is also a word of caution. The civic polls should not be taken as an indication that MIM has come of age and could plunge into any political situation head on.
The MIM’s performance in Aurangabad would definitely help it in Maharashtra. But it could be seen as a party expressing the aspirations of Muslims and other marginalized sections only when it shows its strength in UP or West Bengal.