Provocation is integral to politics and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi is a compulsive provocateur. Someone who nurtures a pan-India ambition to emerge as a Muslim leader to be reckoned with. His opponents call him modern-day Jinnah but that doesn’t deter him from pursuing his political ambition: the journey he embarked on from the pockets of Hyderabad. And encouraged by the outcomes in Maharashtra in two consecutive elections he bet on Bihar and West Bengal. Consequently, even though the gamble was ‘win some and lose some’, Owaisi has set his eyes on Uttar Pradesh now, announcing to contest 100 seats in the state assembly elections next year. His next move was to dare the BJP to win the state once again and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath wasted no time in accepting his challenge.
No prizes for guessing what Asaduddin Owaisi is counting on in Uttar Pradesh. So here are the numbers. According to the 2011 census, the strength of the Muslims in the state is 19.26%. But, AIMIM is not fighting the poll battle alone. It has stitched up an alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), which is believed to have sway over the non-Jatav Dalit community, which constitutes around 12% of the total state population.
Thus, together the Owaisi-Rajbhar alliance can claim to have the support base of over 31% of the constituents. In addition to that, the SBSP has joined forces with nine other small parties in Uttar Pradesh under the banner of Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, which will probably field candidates on all 403 Assembly seats in the state.
What Owaisi said and how CM Yogi responded
The AIMIM chief is apparently emboldened by the arithmetics of electoral politics in his assumption that his alliance can stop the BJP from returning to power in UP.
In the open dare on Saturday, Asaduddin Owaisi said, “Inshallah, we will not allow Yogi Adityanath to become the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh again.”
The next day, CM Yogi Adityanath said, “If he has challenged the BJP, then the BJP worker will accept his challenge.”
Ruling BJP and opposition gear up for 2022 UP polls
It is just the beginning of the pitched battle in Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the elections in 2022. Political daredevilry has just started as fresh alliances are being formed, caste calculations are at play; those who had departed after the last elections are finding ways to come together again. Two other big stakeholders – the BSP and the SP – with their own traditional caste-based vote banks are out in the open hunting for suitable alliances to take on the saffron surge.
The urge to beat the BJP is so strong that all the opposition parties together could have wished to forge a grand alliance. But that is not possible for several practical reasons: from the experience of the past to the lack of common ground to the implausibility of an all-acceptable seat-sharing formula and the ungratifying individual ambition.
Poll challenges for BJP, hurdles for opposition alliances
Therefore, in the practical world, the election is set to be a three or four-cornered contest, in which the BJP has a clear edge if the results of the Zila Panchayat Elections are any parameter of the popularity of the party. Many believe, if the BJP managed to end the infighting and the chief minister kept the flock together pacifying the reported disquiet against him, the party will win by a landslide.
In a state like Uttar Pradesh, the only factor that matters most for a political party or alliance to get a mandate to rule is the caste factor. The BJP began to work on it the moment the party formed the government in 2017. The formula of one CM with two deputy CMs was implemented to strike the balance of caste and region representing them aptly in the Yogi cabinet, even though the Modi wave played a significant role in the elections with a large chunk of people voting beyond the caste lines. There was also a sense of disenchantment with the SP and the BSP regimes which have been taking turns to power in Uttar Pradesh since 2002.
How belligerent Owaisi may help Yogi return to power
Now Yogi Adityanath heartily took up the gauntlet thrown by Asaduddin Owaisi because he has the potential to unite the Hindu votes in the state. The more the AIMIM chief breathes fire on the BJP, the more the saffron party will benefit; the more Owaisi consolidates the Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh, the more opposition forces like the SP and the BSP will wear out. Because, so far, in the past, the victory of these parties came from the Muslims votes along with their own individual caste-based vote banks.
Therefore, the Owaisi factor is not a threat to the BJP rule, his emergence in Uttar Pradesh may rather ensure victory for the saffron party. The reason why the other opposition parties always called AIMIM the B-team of the BJP.
But Asaduddin Owaisi doesn’t care about that perhaps, nor does he care about the victory of the BJP anywhere, since he knows that his party can’t become an alternative force to the saffron party. All that he cares about is the consolidation of his own voter base. He is rather waiting for his own time, gradually gathering strength over the years, to become a national political figure representing Muslims in India to demand his pound of flesh.