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India’s Hindi belt politics has a southern challenger — Asaduddin Owaisi

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16.11.2020

Call him a ‘vote katua’ if you like, but Asaduddin Owaisi has left his fiercest critics introspecting over their take on his party’s electoral graph after the recent success in the Bihar assembly election. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, or the AIMIM, won five seats in Bihar and experts are divided over his impact on the overall result.

Data shows that barring one seat, the AIMIM did not secure more votes than the margin of defeat between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Mahagathbandhan, thus making the votes polled for Owaisi’s party inconsequential for NDA’s win. But Owaisi’s detractors insist that he is ‘BJP’s B-team’, because the NDA gained most in the third phase of the polling where the AIMIM fielded the majority of its 20 candidates.

Nevertheless, the Bihar election is done and dusted, and all eyes are on West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh now. And the AIMIM president has decided to fight the assembly elections, due in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Also read: What the Owaisi phenomenon says about Indian Muslims & future of ‘secular’ parties

Truth is that Owaisi has brought in a new angle to India’s Hindi belt politics. Although the South still has parties that exclusively represent and cater to Muslim voters, North Indian parties are essentially divided between a Right-wing Hindutva party — the BJP — and a pool of ‘secular’ parties. Since the BJP always loses out on the Muslim votes and the ‘secular’ parties gain them, Owaisi’s entry in the Hindi belt evidently divides the Muslim vote. The AIMIM chief also, perceptually, polarises elections, thus consolidating the Hindu vote. However, since Owaisi allied with political chameleons such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) in Bihar, who have allied or been soft on the BJP on........

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