AIMIM not to upset Congress apple cart in Gujarat polls

Ahmedabad: With the pro-reservation agitation of the Patel community queering the pitch for the ruling BJP in the upcoming Gujarat local body polls, the state Congress perceives in this a bright ray of hope.

To prevent possible division of the minority community votes, the Congress is learnt to have persuaded the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) to drop its plan to enter in the electoral fray here.

“For the first time, the strong decades-old Patel community votebank of the BJP in Gujarat appears to have been split by the palpable public support the young Patel agitators have mobilized to press for their demand of reservations in jobs and educational institutions under the OBC category,” an AIMIM source close to the developments told IANS over phone from Mumbai on Sunday.

“At such a juncture, the AMIM leadership was explained that the Congress cannot simply afford to fritter away Muslim community votes in the local body polls when the BJP’s own Patel votebank is breaking away,” he said, adding that “this could harm the community as a whole”.

After days of efforts, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, Gujarat party president Bharatsinh Solanki and strong Ahmedabad legislator Gyasuddin Sheikh are learnt to have impressed upon AIMIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi at the eleventh hour from fielding candidates in local municipal polls to prevent a split in the Muslim voters against the Congress.

The meeting between the Congress leaders and Owaisi occurred at an undisclosed place when Gujarat was celebrating the week-long Diwali festival before the last day of filing nominations for the elections to six city municipal corporations, all controlled by the BJP, earlier in the week.

Dariapur legislator in Ahmedabad Gyasuddin Habibuddin Shaikh told his supporters that the AIMIM was successfully prevented from disturbing the Congress apple cart.

However, a section of the Muslim leaders in the Gujarat Congress, including general secretary Kalimuddin Siddiqui, feel it is time the party should not take the community’s support for granted.

“AIMIM’s presence could have proved to be a pressure group for the Congress party,” said one of them. Siddiqui, meanwhile, refused to discuss the issue.

Congress workers approached Asaduddin Owaisi after his younger brother and AIMIM leader in the Telangana Assembly Akabaruddin Owaisi accepted a challenge thrown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to contest the elections in Gujarat.

Addressing an election rally in Hyderabad, Modi had asked: “Akbar-e-Azam, Aapka lashkar Gujarat kab aayega?”

The AIMIM leaders, who have been vociferously citing the 2002 Gujarat communal riots during public appearances, finally decided against fighting the local polls stating that the party did not have a strong base in the state.