ANNOUNCING the launch of its campaign for its first ever election in Rajasthan, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday announced a six-person core committee for the state led by Jaipur-based educationist Jameel Khan.
While the contest in the state has always been bipolar, between the Congress and BJP, the AIMIM sees a chance given that Muslims constitute 9.07% of the population in Rajasthan and can influence results in 35-40 seats.
The Director of We Can schools, Khan, 42, comes from an influential family, with several relatives in the IAS and Rajasthan Administrative Services. Khan’s grandfather, Colonel Jabodi Khan, had contested MLA polls from Deedwana in 1977 on a Janata Party ticket but lost.
Khan’s team has been tasked with traveling across the state, holding a membership drive, and strengthening the party over the next two months, after which a “proper” state-level organization will be announced.
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The foray into Rajasthan comes on the heels of the AIMIM trying to make inroads in the Hindi belt, though it has struggled to find luck other than in Bihar. In 2017, the AIMIM had contested 38 seats in Uttar Pradesh and forfeited deposits in 37. Its vote share was just 0.24%. In the recent polls in UP, it contested on 95 seats and forfeited deposits in all, with only a slightly higher vote share of 0.49%.
In Bihar, where it contested 20 seats in 2020, it won five, cornering 1.24% of the total vote share.
Owaisi spoke to The Indian Express on the sides of his visit to Jaipur, on his plans for Rajasthan, and why he sees a space for the AIMIM in the state. Excerpts:
What are your plans for Rajasthan. How many seats will the party contest?
I will be able to tell the number of seats closer to the elections. But certainly, we will contest on as many seats as possible. Hence we are declaring a core committee of the party today so that the organization grows. In one-and-a-half to two months, we will give shape to a proper body.
How do you plan on consolidating the voters? What are the national and state issues on which people will support the party?
I don’t think the Congress will be able to stop the BJP here; There is immense anti-incumbency and misgovernance. An example of the latter is the Karauli violence. And then the demolition of temples in Alwar gave a handle to the BJP.
As for political issues, I believe that Muslims should have their own political leadership in India so that there is less communalism, confidence in democracy grows and the rule of law is strengthened. And when you totally ignore a section of the society in participatory democracy and don’t address their issues… there is a need for political leadership, so that questions are raised on socio, educational, economic, health issues and answers are sought. You see the Assembly performance of our five MLAs in Bihar, in Maharashtra from where Imtiyaz Jaleel is our MP, and our corporators… we will work like that.
For three decades, the BJP and Congress have been winning Rajasthan by turns, and a third party or front has had limited success. How will the AIMIM address this?
There is no reality in this anymore. Other than the Congress and BJP, there is political scope and space here. That is why you see that some parties have been successful, such as the Bharatiya Tribal Party and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party. I think that in the present time there is an immense need for the people of Rajasthan to have a political voice apart from the Congress and BJP.
Will the AIMIM be open to tie-ups?
We are ready to tie up, but before that, we have to have an organization here. We will talk about it at an appropriate time and will do an alliance if it is (mutually) beneficial.
What does the AIMIM have to offer the people of Rajasthan?
What we offer is that you form your own independent political leadership. Don’t just be vote givers, become vote takers, because the Human Development Indicators of the state, and especially of Muslims, are very low. And that has to do with political potential. For years we have been giving votes but there has to be change on the ground… Importantly, stopping communalism and fascism.
There have been several communal violence cases in the past few months in Rajasthan.
Every other day, one of their own ministers says that he is piqued, that they are being stopped from working. When you hear that from the horse’s mouth, why should Asaduddin Owaisi comment more?
The AIMIM could not make any impact in the UP elections. How is Rajasthan different?
Our vote percentage did increase in UP, but we could not succeed. But comparing the two states is wrong because there is a lot of difference in the situation. If you look at UP, the Muslims feel they have been cheated… We were misled into voting (for the Samajwadi Party)… that we will be able to stop the BJP. I believe that – I have said so publicly and am also telling you this – that, especially in the Hindi belt, Muslims cannot change governments… It is a political reality which needs to be accepted.
Muslims are said to have ‘strategically’ voted for the SP in UP, and not for the Congress, BSP or AIMIM. Will Muslims also vote ‘strategically’ here?
Like I said earlier, Muslims were misled after being made to believe that they are vote banks, but they aren’t. Then Muslims were told that they can change governments, but they can’t do that either.
But the Muslim vote that the Samajwadi Party got (in UP), it was (more than) pre-demolition and post-demolition (of Babri Masjid). If there was one-sided polling after the Emergency, it was now. But despite that, you (the SP) could not defeat the BJP. During the election campaign, I kept saying that they won’t be able to defeat the BJP and that you need to strengthen your party. This is the reality in the Hindi belt, and the Muslims will have to accept this. You need to first make your representatives successful… and their (the Congress’s) principles of constitutional secularism, pluralism and diversity are completely shallow and hollow.