Majlis sees its Andhra moment while Kiran runs out of time
The Charminar in the Old City of Hyderabad is up in flames. Andhra Chief Minister Kiran Reddy has been so far facing attacks and walkouts from his own partymen. Now, adding to his woes, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) headed by the rambunctious orator Asaduddin Owaisi, is pulling the rug from under his feet over the state government obeying a High Court order to construct a temporary roof over the Bhagyalakshmi temple, adjacent to the Charminar. Until now, the MIM had not objected to the tarpaulin roofs erected over the temple for Diwali every year; but Owaisi, sensing an opportunity to embarass Kiran as an entry ticket to the Jagan camp changed his stand, accusing the Congress of “strengthening the Sangh Parivar activities”. Owaisi has grabbed the chance he has been waiting for so long: to expand the MIM as a party with support in the entire state from just its comfort zone of the Old City of Hyderabad and make inroads into Seemandhra and Rayalseema. He has decided to embark on a tour of the state after November 25, wanting to expand its base. Ironically, while attacking the Kiran Reddy government, the MIM is careful not to criticise YSR—an understanding with the YSR Congress Party seems likely in the 2014 elections. This will impact Congress fortunes badly by losing minority support traditonally associated with the MIM. Muslims are a sizeable voting bloc in several constituencies in Telangana and Rayalaseema.
According to sources, apart from its 40-year-old MIM bastion of the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat, the Majlis may make a serious bid to wrest the Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat too, with help from the YSR Congress Party. From its current strength of one in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Assembly, the MIM may muster two digits in the Assembly. The June by-election results in Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra clearly indicated a Muslim vote shift away from the Congress and towards Jagan. According to MIM MLA Syed Amin ul Jafri, the four per cent minority quota for fee reimbursement was launched by YSR and not the Congress. In more than 90 out of Andhra’s 294 Assembly constituencies, Muslims account for more than 10 per cent of the vote. Of that number, over 60 have a Muslim vote of more than 15 per cent. In Telangana, Muslim voters played a key role in deciding the fate of multi-cornered contests in the 2014 polls in this region which went Jagan's way.
Despite the loss of support of seven MIM MLAs, the Congress government is safe. The Congress has 156 MLAs (155 + one independent), which is five more than the magic figure of 147. But the fear is of more MLAs leaving the fold as the elections approach. Owaisi believes that a tie-up with Jagan will implement the dalit-minorities formula, and the MIM will become a bigger force in the state.
- Sunday Standard