Pricked MGB, and Now Didi? AIMIM’s Bihar Show Proves it’s a Thorn in TMC’s Side in 2021 Bengal Polls

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His party managed to secure only five seats in Bihar assembly elections but it was enough to scuttle the Mahagathbandhan’s hopes of outdoing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state.

Meet Asaduddin Owaisi – the president of All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM).

His huge advancements in the Bihar poll results by winning five seats out of 24 in the Seemanchal region has now become an eye-opener for the Trinamool Congress – considering AIMIM a ‘vote-cutter’ – which is going to wrest the saffron brigade in the West Bengal 2021 assembly elections.

Having some influence among Muslim voters in the bordering areas in Bengal, AIMIM has decided to contest the 2021 polls, reportedly with the support of one of the strong Muslim clerics in Bengal – Abbas Siddiqui.

Siddiqui in one of his public rallies called himself a ‘big fan’ of Owaisi. It is likely that Siddiqui’s support to AIMIM is going to damage Mamata Banerjee’s game plan in securing the magic figure, an effect similar to the one felt in Bihar by Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

The party’s strong influence was seen in the Seemanchal constituencies – Kochadhaman was won by AIMIM’s Muhammed Izhar Asfi by defeating JD(U) MLA Mujahid Alam); Kishanganj, where AIMIM lost; Amour, which was won by AIMIM’s Bihar President Akhtar-ul Iman by defeating Congress MLA Jaleel Mastan; Bahadurganj, won by AIMIM’s Mohammed Anzar Nayeemi by defeating Congress’ Tauseef Alam; Baisi, won by AIMIM’s Syed Ruknuddin Ahmad by defeating RJD’s Haji Abdus Subhan; Thakurganj, where AIMIM lost; and Jokihat, won by AIMIM’s Shahnawaz Alam who defeated his brother Sarfaraz Alam of RJD.

The AIMIM had fielded 16 candidates in Seemanchal and portrayed itself as an alternative to the RJD-Congress alliance. They mainly targeted the RJD-Congress alliance votes, which helped NDA in Bihar.

A similar situation may be repeated in West Bengal during the upcoming polls – AIMIM could damage Mamata’s substantiate Muslim vote share in the State.

Siddiqui is an influential cleric of Furfura Sharif Darbar located in Jangipara in Hooghly district. His decision to contest the 2021 state elections while extending his wishes to Owaisi could be a concern for TMC due to the inevitable division of the Muslim vote share.

Although he is politically standing against the BJP but his decision to contest the assembly polls is likely to help the saffron brigade. With more than 31 per cent vote share – Muslims are undeniably a deciding factor to turn the tables for any political party in West Bengal.

They were also the deciding factor during the Left rule in the state until TMC chief Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011. Banerjee knows all to well that any significant division in the Muslim vote share – a deciding factor in nearly 90 out of 294 Assembly seats in the state – could jeopardise her mission for the upcoming polls.

“Abbas Siddiqui is an influential leader among the Muslim community and in many occasions he has openly supported AIMIM. Now, if both of them (Abbas and AIMIM) contest, our vote share could become insignificant. It’s going to be a big headache for us,” a senior TMC leader said.

Owaisi saw a huge political opportunity in Bengal and since 2011 his party began slow work starting in the bordering areas of the state where the Muslim population is high.

After winning five seats in Bihar – Owaisi is likely to pay more attention towards Bengal. Even though he yet to launch AIMIM officially in the state, the leader has already been engaging local youths to spread AIMIM’s ideology and party’s stand towards Muslims, mainly in Kolkata, North Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri and Nadia districts.

Earlier, AIMIM’s West Bengal head Jamirul Hassan had claimed that they are certainly going to contest the election in the state but the number of seats to contest would be decided only after the Bihar poll results.

“There are some influential Muslim clerics in Bengal who are extending their support to us. We are also in talk with a mainstream political party to contest the poll together in Bengal. We will announce our decision at an appropriate time,” he had said.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the state had witnessed a polarised two-way voting. BJP had openly played their Hindu card, while TMC banked on the Muslims. Such was the polarisation that even the Matuas (strong supporters of TMC) voted for BJP for raising the Citizenship issue.

While the polarisation came as a concern for TMC – as Hindu votes are shying away towards BJP – Abbas Siddiqui and AIMIM’s plan to contest 2021 polls could prove to be a boon for the BJP. In 2019, TMC got 43 per cent votes, despite losing 12 seats, which was 5 per cent more (due to Muslim support) compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls In 2014, TMC had got 34 seats, while in 2019 it managed to secure only twenty-two.

On the other hand, in the 2016 assembly polls BJP’s vote share was 12 per cent and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections it went up to 39 per cent. This increase in the 27 per cent vote share was mainly because of Hindus coalescing towards the saffron party.

In West Bengal, nearly 22 per cent Muslims live in Kolkata city while the majority of them, nearly 67 per cent, live in Murshidabad district. The second and third-highest Muslim population lives in North Dinajpur, at 52 per cent, and Malda, at 53 per cent, respectively. In North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur, the Muslim population is 49.92 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

West Bengal accounts for the second-highest Muslim population in India at nearly 2.47 crore – forming nearly 27.5 per cent of the state’s population. In the 2016 assembly polls, TMC was ahead in nearly 90 minority-dominated seats. In densely Muslim populated-areas which comprise of more than 40 per cent of the electorate – TMC was ahead in nearly 60 out of 65 assembly constituencies.

Banking on Muslims as Hindu votes coalesce towards the BJP, AIMIM and Abbas Siddiqui – the party which mainly hovers around the minorities – could play a spoilsport for ‘Didi’.

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