Lucknow: With the next Uttar Pradesh assembly election drawing near, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is looking to increase its political mileage in the BJP-ruled state where it must also contend with the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi will begin a three-day visit to UP, starting from Ayodhya district on 7 September at Rudauli, located 50 km from the Ram Janmbhoomi site. From there, he will travel to Sultanpur and Barabanki as well, ending his tour on 9 September.
The party’s state chief Shaukat Ali told ThePrint that Owaisi will address the ‘Shoshit Vanchit Samaj Sammelan’ — a meeting with people from OBC, Dalit and minority communities — that is being organised across the state.
On his agenda is also a meeting with unit workers in all three districts.
However, chatter in the political circles show that all eyes are on Owaisi’s Ayodhya stop.
To this, Ali said, “His (Owaisi) visit has nothing to do with mandir-and-masjid (temple and mosque) politics of Ayodhya. He covers two to three districts on every trip. This time he has chosen Faizabad, Sultanpur and Barabanki. We have strong units in all three districts, so he is going to address them.”
Faizabad was renamed Ayodhya in November 2018.
However, party sources said starting the three-day visit in Ayodhya has a specific political message tucked into it.
Although Barabanki is near Lucknow, where Owaisi’s flight will land, the AIMIM chief beginning his tour from Ayodhya is clearly an indication of him doing politics his own way, one source told said ThePrint, adding that Owaisi “understands the significance of the word ‘Ayodhya’ in UP politics”.
Last year, before the Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan ceremony was held in Ayodhya, Owaisi sparked a controversy by claiming that the Babri Masjid incident will always remain etched in Ayodhya’s legacy.
Tweeting with the hashtag ‘Babri Zinda Hai’, the Hyderabad MP said: “Babri Masjid thi, hai, aur rahegi (Babri masjid was there, is there and will remain).”
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) August 5, 2020
In November 2019, following the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ram janmbhoomi land dispute case — in which 5 acres of land was allotted for the mosque at a different location — Owaisi said his party did not fight for this “charity” but for a legal right for the Babri masjid.
“If BJP can do their OBC morcha meeting in Ayodhya, BSP can do Brahmin Sammelan in Ayodhya, why can’t AIMIM? We also have equal rights. Though we are in Rudauli, it’s also a constituency of Ayodhya district. Minority population here is not less than 20 per cent … we will unite Dalits, Muslims and OBC to defeat the BJP,” a party leader in Faizabad said.
The state’s caste dynamics are of particular significance, given that the BSP’s voter base makes up the lion’s share of the Dalit population in the state, a significant vote bank.
Faizabad not Ayodhya
The AIMIM also caught attention after it pointedly referred to Ayodhya by its earlier name — Faizabad — while posting about Owaisi’s visit.
AIMIM leaders ThePrint spoke to said the reason behind this was that the party does not agree with the BJP policy of changing names.
“During his speech and statement, Owaisi most likely will call it ‘Faizabad’ only. Even in posters, we are using (the name) Faizabad only … this is our strategy,” said one leader.
I'll be visiting Faizabad on Sept 7, Sultanpur on Sept 8 and Barabanki on Sept 9. In coming days we'll visit more areas of Uttar Pradesh in view of upcoming assembly polls to defeat Yogi government: AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi pic.twitter.com/YDa45f7zpT
— ANI (@ANI) September 2, 2021
In his statement to ANI, Owaisi had said, “I’ll be visiting Faizabad on Sept 7, Sultanpur on Sept 8 and Barabanki on Sept 9. In the coming days, we’ll visit more areas of Uttar Pradesh in view of upcoming assembly polls to defeat the Yogi government.”
AIMIM’s 100 seats
The AIMIM is preparing to contest the UP election under the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha. Omprakash Rajbhar is leading the morcha, where there are more than nine smaller parties. Although no ticket distribution has happened yet, Owaisi has already announced that the AIMIM will contest 100 assembly seats.
“Our party has made district units in all 75 districts. Now, focus is on shortlisting 100 seats out of 403. We will focus more on those seats where Muslims and Dalits are in significant numbers,” an AIMIM functionary told ThePrint.
“Muslims make up a significant chunk of UP’s population — 19.26 per cent — while the Rajbhars have an important role to play in almost two dozen seats in the Purvanchal area,” the functionary added.
“Our other ally partners in Sankalp Bhagidari Morcha too have good hold on OBC votes, so it’s an add-on for us.”
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)