Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Analysis: Why 'Asad Owaisi' Doesn’t Stand A Chance In Bihar Or WB, Unlike Badruddin Ajmal In Assam?


Asaduddin Owaisi has tossed his topi (cap) into the Bihar election ring after dithering for a month. But Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM)’s prospects in Bihar’s Seemanchal belt are bleak despite the unusually high percentage of Muslim voters in the 25 assembly seats Owaisi is eyeing in the backward region.

MIM’s prospect is equally grim in West Bengal with a Muslim population of nearly 27 percent – the highest after J&K and Assam - where MIM is seriously considering contesting assembly polls next year. Owaisi’s party held its first public rally in Kolkata on 6 September to test the waters.

So the moot question is: Why MIM’s poll prospects are so dismal in both Bihar and Bengal whereas another Muslim party, All India Democratic United Front (AIUDF) led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, is doing so well in Assam?

The reason is quite simple: Muslims feel pretty safe in Bihar and Bengal and therefore are unlikely to flock to a Muslim party. But in Assam, serial massacres and the foreigners’ issue hanging like a sword over Bengali-speaking Muslims’ heads, made them turn to AIUDF for protection.

Unfortunately for Owaisi, Bihar’s Muslims have not been subjected to organized violence against Muslims on a big scale after the 1989 Bhagalpur riots. A couple of years later, Muslims were targeted in Sitamarhi but the scale of violence was not comparable with Bhagalpur. And after the Babri Masjid demolition, casualties in Lalu Prasad-ruled Bihar (24) were less than in West Bengal (32) where the formidable Jyoti Basu was at the helm.

Since then there have been sporadic communal incidents in Bihar claiming a few lives now and then. But the horrors of Bhagalpur or Sitamarhi have not been revisited.

Similarly, West Bengal — which Owaisi seems to be eyeing — is virtually riot-free since 1964 to the great relief of Bengali and Urdu-speaking Muslims. The post-Babri Masjid demolition came as a shock but the wounds have healed because there have been no recurrences.

In contrast to Bihar and Bengal, Assam’s Muslims have been regularly subjected to violence even after the horrific killings in Nellie, Chowlkhowa, Mukalmua and Gohpur in 1983. There were pogroms against Muslims in 1993, 1994, 2008 and 2012. Besides a huge number of Muslim casualties, violence resulted in displacement on a big scale but the government did little for survivors living for years in relief camps.

The threat of arrest and deportation to Bangladesh worsened Muslim fears in Assam. Little wonder that AIUDF made its electoral debut in 2006 soon after the scrapping of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act which was like a judicial shield for Muslims against harassment and persecution by the state.

In the 2006 assembly polls in Assam, AIUDF won only 10 seats in the 126-strong legislature. In 2009, the party won its first Lok Sabha seat. In 2011, AIUDF emerged as the second largest party in the Assam legislative assembly with 18 MLAs winning more seats than the BJP, Asom Gana Parishad and Bodo People’s Front. And last year, the number of AIUDF MPs increased to three from one. Its prospects in Assam elections next year are bright.

As things stand, Muslims are unlikely to vote en masse for MIM although they account for 70 percent of the population in Kishangunj and comprise 40 percent of the population of Kathiar, Purnea and Araria which make up the Seemanchal region Owaisi has zeroed in on obviously because of its religious composition.

Significantly, AIUDF has been trying to fish in West Bengal waters contesting panchayat and assembly polls after consolidating its position in Assam. But it has cut a sorry figure in successive elections. The same fate awaits MIM in Bihar and West Bengal I’m afraid.
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