Column | How far can Asaduddin Owaisi's party be a spoiler in UP elections

Asaduddin Owaisi | (Image Courtesy - @asadowaisi)
Asaduddin Owaisi. Photo: @asadowais/Twitter

How many B teams will be there in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. This deadly allegation of being proxy of another party has now been hurled at the Hyderabad-based All-India Majlis-e-Ittidehadul Musilmeen or AIMIM after its president Asaduddin Owaisi announced the party would contest only 100 of the total 403 legislative assembly seats.

The Samajwadi Party and Congress have accused Owaisi, who has been a spoiler in recent Lok Sabha and assembly elections, of fielding candidates to split the anti-BJP votes. Because of Owaisi's strong presence, the UPA lost 10 critical seats in Bihar in 2020, which gave a narrow victory for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his partner BJP. Congress had accused AIMIM candidates of being spoilers in the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections too, where BJP became the single largest party in a hung assembly. But Owaisi came a cropper in this year's Bengal elections against the huge positive vote for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But Mamata had accused both Congress and CPM of acting as B teams of BJP, as they had roped in a new party the Indian Secular Front, in the hope of garnering minority votes. But the Front was a non-starter.

Owaisi argues that he is getting more supporters across the country because he is the only politician who calls a spade a spade. He says Muslim voters are disenchanted with other non-BJP parties because most have become B teams of BJP! He argues that it is not just the Muslims, but the poor and discriminated Hindu castes which are attracted by AIMIM's politics.

Owaisi also faces criticism from another front. Rakesh Tikait, the leader of the farmers agitation who made Prime Minister Narendra Modi blink said, Owaisi's relationship with BJP was that of a nephew with his uncle, in the context of AIMIM demand to rollback amendments to the Citizenship Act. Tikait said Owaisi can ask his uncles "privately" for what he wanted. The AIMIM leaders retorted that Tikait was worried about the party's influence in western Uttar Pradesh as he had led the revolt of Jat farmers. AIMIM is going to contest several Muslim-majority seats in the western UP districts of Meerut, Ghaziabad, Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar.

What is BSP up to

In UP, Samajwadi Party leaders are also accusing the Bahujan Samaj Party of being another B team of BJP, but BSP leader Mayawati has said she is fighting to win the elections, but she has her own unique electoral tactics. The Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi who has announced 40 percent seats for women is facing allegations from state BJP leaders that she would end up taking women's votes from BJP so that the split in women votes will help the male-oriented Samajwadi Party led by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Whose Trojan horse is Amarinder?

In Punjab, however, Amarinder Singh, who was removed as chief minister by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi recently, was long accused of being soft towards Akali Dal and by extension to its ally BJP. Now Singh has said he would join hands with BJP with conditions but would not support the Akali Dal. After being accused of being a Trojan horse of the Akalis and the BJP within the Congress compound, Amarinder Singh is openly the A team but it is to be seen whether he would get A-class results.

In Kerala allegations have been made against all three major parties — CPM, Congress and BJP — of vote transfer strategies with extreme theories floated to explain the ups and downs of BJP's vote share from election to election.

Owaisi, a powerful orator who gathers big audiences for his rallies, is thrilled at all the attention he is getting. He will further the insecurities of all the parties and their candidates. But it is the UP voter who will decide on the electoral wisdom of AIMIM being only in one out of five assembly seats. 

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