New Delhi: Syed Imtiaz Jaleel, a former NDTV reporter from Aurangabad, Maharashtra was coming to the Lok Sabha for the first time as the MP representing the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. He spoke about their targeted operations to the reporters who surrounded his party leader Asaduddin Owaisi, in front of the parliament building. Owaisi who said he would expand their operations to Bihar, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh also said that they would not come to Kerala and Assam. He said the aim was to enable Muslims to stand on their own feet politically and that the Muslim League in Kerala and the All India United Democratic Front in Assam had organized Muslims politically, so there was no need to go there.
There was nothing unbelievable about what he said since I had gone to Assam and Bengal to report the Lok Sabha election. Owaisi who took advantage of the Lok Sabha election in 2019 - with the Bihar assembly elections in 2020 and West Bengal in 2021 in his mind - did not even look at Assam. It was from the Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikutty that I heard a similar mention in Delhi about the political organization of Muslims and the national expansion of his own party.
The period was when PK Kunhalikutty, who had been once confined to Kerala politics, won in Malappuram, which was vacant following the death of E Ahmed. After attending the League's Leaders' Meeting at the Constitution Club in Delhi, he spoke about the huge potential for the Muslim League and announced that it would expand its activities to more states and would visit various states for this purpose.
He said the decision would be taken at the national leadership meeting in Goa and the rest of the details would be known by then. Even before Kunhalikutty's arrival in Delhi, the Muslim League, led by ET Mohammad Basheer MP, had been carrying out various activities in the Muslim-populated areas of northern India. The acceptance of such activities, which were aimed at the expansion of the Muslim League, reflected the vacuum of a Muslim political leadership in those areas. Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal were among the states where the Muslim League and the Majlis came together on the same platform and carried out several activities targeting their expansion.
It was amid these stealthy and cautious political activities of Muslim League that Owaisi conquered Seemanchal with his dynamic move. It was not easy for even the Majlis to make its debut in Bihar. The party couldn't do much in the first election. But with this election, everything changed. Owaisi's political victory is that he has now successfully converted the Majlis to a party with a tag with which Muslim candidates in Bihar can win. Today, the Majlis has become such a mainstream party for those who followed the Congress, RJD and JDU with crores of rupees for a single ticket.
Asaduddin Owaisi's ability to play politics only when chances are favourable to him, was seen during the Telangana struggle. Owaisi, a native of Hyderabad, did not stand on either side, even when the same party had split inside the Parliament. When Telangana became a reality, he even competed by aligning Chandrasekhar Rao in the front. The pragmatic politics that Owaisi shows is the simple truth that his party is not an NGO and that their position is in electoral politics.
There are thousands of NGOs involved in charitable activities within the Muslim community. At the same time, they have no master in terms of political empowerment. It is in this void that Owaisi seeks to take a barricade against the tide of Hindutva politics. In areas where the BJP dominates, Muslims continue to vote for the opposition including the Congress out of sheer helplessness. But the other side is confident that Muslims have no choice but to vote for themselves. And yet, these parties would display more right-wing attitude and show cruel silence on Muslim issues, fearing that the BJP would accuse them of being anti-nationals.
What Owaisi did now was to take advantage of the political renaissance that Shaheen Bagh had instilled in Indian Muslims and climb into the secular space which the mainstream parties had vacated. When the Narendra Modi-led government introduced the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act, a new array of people including Muslim women and young people came forward and created several Shaheen Baghs in different parts of the country without waiting for mainstream political and traditional religious organizations. The 'Shaheen Bagh' was a movement in which Muslims established their own identity in the country's opposition politics. Seamanchal is an area where high levels of excitement and energy have been rippling in the same scale it did across the country against the CAA, NRC and NPR. Therefore, in this election too, they keenly observed who came before them to talk about these three things and who were consciously silent about the same. However, several leaders including Tejashwi Yadav were not ready to make the citizenship crisis even an issue even at their election rallies let alone their election manifesto,
On the other hand, Asaduddin Owaisi, who came to every election rally in Bihar and proclaimed that he would go along with alleviating the fears about the CAA, did not end his speech without recalled his having torn the bill document in pieces in the Lok Sabha. The entire leadership that imprisoned the front leaders of Shaheen Bagh was imprisoned in anticipation of the new uprising of Indian Muslims. Yet the people of Seemanchal have shown the country the right to self-determination they have earned through the 'Shaheen Bagh' struggle. Azaduddin Owaisi has also announced the determination to become a decisive force in Indian public life by giving the country the fundamental message of lifting its head and standing on its own feet in the face of the tide of majority.