The Congress is definitely nervous. The minority cell of Mumbai Congress has sought intervention of the party's national leadership in stopping Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majilis Ittehadul Muslimeen from contesting in assembly polls.
In a letter to party vice president Rahul Gandhi early this week, Nizamuddin Rayeen, president of the minority cell, has said AIMIM contesting the assembly polls could alter the outcome in over 20 assembly seats, including seven in Mumbai, where there is concentration of members of the minority community.
The letter also states Congress would be hard hit if AIMIM enters the fray as Muslims in Maharashtra had been supporting Congress till now. The national leadership should hence convince Owaisi against fielding candidates, it says.
On Aug 27, dna had reported that AIMIM was planning to contest 30-40 seats across Maharashtra, including 10 in Mumbai. AIMIM is also trying to forge an alliance with Dalits and other minority groups to increase their vote base, and have already started preparations.
Nizamuddin Rayeen confirmed the development, but refused to comment further citing "sensitivity of the matter".
Reiterating party's commitment to contest 30-40 seats, Syed Momin, AIMIM state chief, said: "The move explains Congress' low confidence. They have always cheated Muslims. They have done nothing for the community and have considered Muslims only as a vote-bank."
Muslims account for 11% of the state population (15% in Mumbai city). The current assembly of 288 has 11 Muslim MLAs (5 Congress, 2 NCP, 2 SP. Of this, seven are from Mumbai. "Muslim population exceeds 3.35 lakh in 10 districts and can alone generate 16 seats proportionately," said a Congress functionary.
MIM's entry has also sent shock waves in Samajwadi Party which mainly relies on Muslim votes. SP is now seeking alliance with Congress-NCP to combat the situation. State SP chief Abu Asim Azmi says: "Muslims and north-Indians are our main supporters and AIMIM entry might affect the prospects of SP and Congress to some extent. To avoid division in secular votes, I have proposed an alliance with Congress-NCP. This would be ideal too considering the Bihar by-poll results," Azmi said.
Political commentator Surendra Jondhale said Owaisi's entry could spell more trouble for SP than Congress. "Many Muslims, who have been traditionally voting for SP, may now gravitate towards AIMIM, as they may consider Owaisi's fundamental stand as a bulwark against the rising hardcore Hindutva politics."