The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's decision to pullout from the Centre and the Andhra government will spell big trouble for the Congress. Mohammed Siddique reports from Hyderabad.
With its decision to severe relations with the Congress both in Andhra Pradesh and at the Centre, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen is once again in focus. One of the biggest Muslim political parties in the country, the MIM has traditionally enjoyed total control over Hyderabad.
Gradually increasing its strength over the decades, the party won seven seats in the state assembly in 2009. It has also been winning the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat since 1984. Presently, the party is also in power in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and as part of an agreement with the Congress its nominee is the city mayor.
Recently, the party also signaled the expansion of its sphere of influence by winning 11 seats in the Nanded Municipal Corporation in neighbouring Maharashtra.
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The party, which was revived by prominent lawyer Abdul Ahad Owaisi in 1950s, following the merger of the Hyderabad state to the Indian Union in 1948, has always identified itself with the issues and causes of the Muslim community. While his son Salahuddin Owaisi led the party till his death, four years ago, Salahuddin's son Asaduddin Owaisi, a London returned barrister, is its president now.
While traditionally the MIM was known to pursue the policy of having a working and friendly relationship with any ruling party in the state, it donned an adversarial role against Telugu Desam Party of N Chandrababu Naidu in 1998 when he decided to support the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government.
The MIM swung to the other side and joined hands with the Congress. In the 2004 and 2009 elections, the MIM not only supported the Congress but also marshaled several other Muslim organisations under the banner of the Muslim United Action Committee to mobilise support among Muslims for the Congress, playing a major role in defeat of the TDP and ending Naidu's rule.
The MIM leadership had stable and cordial relations with Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, whose death in a helicopter crash in 2009 plunged the state in to a never ending political uncertainty and turmoil. However at the Centre, Owaisi continued to enjoy a good rapport with the United Progressive Alliance and its chairperson Sonia Gandhi. It was no coincidence that the MIM adopted a clear stand against the demand for separate Telangana, strengthening the position of YSR on the issue.
The bonhomie was missing when K Rosaiah succeeded YSR. When Kiran Kumar Reddy took over by the end of 2010 relations looked up, as their friendship with Owaisi and his brother Akbaruddin Owaisi goes back to their college days.
But later the warmth petered out as serious issues cropped up. MIM leadership was piqued with Reddy's indifference on sensitive issues of communal disturbances in Hyderabad and other parts of the state in which Muslim minority was targeted massively. Owaisi was especially angry about the bias shown by the police and the administration and took up the issue with the chief minister several times.
The communal riots, subsequent indiscriminate arrests of Muslims and the arrests of Muslim youths on terror-related charges all piled up making the relations tenuous.
Reddy on the other hand was perturbed as Owaisi publicly demonstrated his support for jailed Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and visited him terming him a "good friend".
The latest series of incidents starting with the attacks by Sangh Parivar activists on Muslims bringing cattle for sacrifice on Bakri Eid, confiscation of animals by communal elements with the active support of the police and the administration, and communal violence, culminating to a ruckus over the extension of a disputed temple at Charminar proved the last straw.
In a classic example of complete indifference to the situation spiraling out of control, the CM has not uttered a single word on all the unfolding developments.
The dislike of MIM for Reddy has reached such a level that Owaisi declared, "Pulling down this government is our number one priority. We are ready for any situation including elections. But we cannot go back on our decision to bring this government to an end."
As far as the next option for MIM is concerned, there is no dearth of it. It can always keep its doors open for rapprochement with the Congress with conditions while toying with Jagan or even Naidu, who has repeatedly vowed never to shake hands with the BJP once again.
At a time when the Congress is facing a serious threat of decimation from the YSR Congress in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema and from the Telangana Rashtra Samiti in Telangana, the loss of Muslim support can spell a big trouble for the Congress in the next elections.
Image: MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi