Lucknow: Buoyed by its success in Bihar, the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has set its sights on Uttar Pradesh.
In his first visit to UP since his party won a creditable five seats in the October-November Bihar assembly elections, Owaisi, the MP from Hyderabad, met former BJP ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party’s chief Om Prakash Rajbhar at a Lucknow hotel Wednesday. The meeting lasted an hour and a half, and the leaders announced that AIMIM will be part of the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, the Rajbhar-led alliance of smaller parties for the 2022 assembly polls.
Owaisi and Rajbhar also discussed the upcoming panchayat polls in UP, expected to be held in February.
AIMIM’s Uttar Pradesh unit president Shaukat Ali told ThePrint: “This meeting was about joining the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha and form a grand alliance of different smaller parties with the same ideology.”
Owaisi himself did not divulge too much when he met the media after the meeting. “The two of us are sitting before you. We stand together and we will work under his (Rajbhar) leadership,” he said.
Responding to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s charge that the AIMIM was “colluding” with the BJP, Owaisi said: “Never was a man born who can buy Asaduddin Owaisi with money. Her allegation is baseless; she is restless. She should worry about her own home; so many of her people are going to the BJP. She has insulted the voters of Bihar and the people who voted for us.”
Learning from Bihar
There is speculation that former CM Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party could come together with the AIMIM and the SBSP, though she hasn’t shown any interest so far. If the BSP does join in, the alliance could take the shape of the Grand Democratic Secular front led by Rashtriya Lok Samta Party’s Upendra Kushwaha, another former BJP ally.
But since the BSP is not showing interest, the alliance is looking to bring in the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohiya) led by Shivpal Yadav, former UP minister and brother of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav.
AIMIM’s Ali confirmed that Owaisi would meet Shivpal Yadav to ask him to join the alliance.
Arun Rajbhar, son of O.P. Rajbhar and general secretary of the SBSP, said: “We are open to talks with everyone in the opposition. We met (Samajwadi Party chief) Akhilesh Yadav and (UP Congress chief) Ajay Lallu also. We can meet Mayawati too, but the thing these three parties should also understand that it is the time to learn from the Bihar election results and unite against BJP. That’s the only way to beat it.”
Owaisi’s AIMIM had fought 20 seats in Bihar, winning five. But notably, it bagged all the seats it contested in the Muslim-dominated Seemanchal region.
Muslims make up a significant chunk of UP’s population too — 19.26 per cent — while the Suheldev Samaj followers or Rajbhars have an important role to play in almost two dozen seats in the Purvanchal area.
Kaviraj, political analyst and professor at Lucknow University, said if the idea of a ‘grand alliance’ of parties, including the BSP, comes to fruition, the SP and the Congress, who rely on Dalit and Muslim votes, will have their task cut out.
Along with AIMIM, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party into the electoral arena will also make for an interesting contest, Kaviraj said.