AIMIM Targets Gujarat’s Muslim-Majority Towns As Owaisi Says Ghettos Stagnate Under BJP Rule

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All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s national President Asaduddin Owaisi addressing a public rally.

Elections to 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka (tehsil) panchayats are scheduled to be held on February 28.

Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India

AHMEDABAD — Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which stunned everyone by gatecrashing into Gujarat’s electoral politics with its February 23 victory in seven seats in the elections to the Ahmedabad municipal corporation, has been firing on all cylinders to next woo voters in Muslim majority towns of Godhra, Modasa and Bharuch which go to polls on February 28.

Aiming at making its presence felt in the three civic bodies, the party has kept the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress guessing by fielding eight candidates in Godhra, 12 in Modasa and, in Bharuch, it is contesting six seats but has struck a seat-sharing deal with the Bharatiya Tribal Party which holds sway also in the district and taluka panchayats.

In the last three days, while AIMIM leader Waris Pathan led a tractor-and-bike rally in Bharuch, Owaisi and other party bigwigs again delivered rabble-rousing speeches at massive public meetings in the three towns, elaborating on plight of Muslims and other marginalised communities under the BJP regime in the state as well as local self-government institutions.

AIMIM spokesman and Gujarat High Court advocate Shamshad Pathan told Clarion India that Muslims who continued to live a dog’s life even on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the 2002 bloody riots on Friday now saw a ray of hope in Owaisi’s party.

“The Congress had only used them as a vote bank and did not care two hoots for their welfare. The minority community has to live in ghettos as second-class citizens. Now Muslims see their saviour in Owaisi and want to support his party for greater and crucial political representation of the community in local self-government institutions,” he said.

Refuting allegations that AIMIM’s candidates were unlettered, Pathan claimed that the 21 candidates fielded in Ahmedabad included graduates, lawyers, engineers and high-brow religious scholars as well as those who were in the vanguard of the Shaheen Bagh movement in Ahmedabad.

He said that that all the 26 contestants in Godhra, Modasa and Bharuch were also eager-beaver party faithfuls knowing the pulse of the people and would certainly emerge triumphant and fight for the rights of the hard-pressed six-million Muslim community.

In Godhra, Ground Zero of the 2002 bloody communal riots, Owaisi, who is very popular in the town, described how the development in Gujarat was lopsided and did not touch Muslim-dominated areas in the town, and pointed out that popular trains like Garib Rath and August Kranti did not stop at the Godhra railway station.

He said there were 20 secondary schools in Godhra of which, only three were in Muslim areas, and added that the dropout rate among Muslim school girls was as high as 80 per cent due to lack of Urdu medium schools while scoffing at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Beti Bachao, Desh Bachao slogan.

In Modasa, Owaisi invoked the 2008 bomb blast case that claimed the life of a Muslim boy and said that people would “reply to the oppressors”, claiming that the people responsible for the blast had not been collared so far.

Referring to the protests in Modasa in January 2020 against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register, Owaisi said, “I want to congratulate the people of Modasa for the manner in which they protested against the CAA, NRC and NPR… I spoke up in the Parliament against 306 MPs of the BJP saying that if they will bring the CAA, then we will protest. We, too, have the right to live without fear.”

In Bharuch, too, the AIMIM supremo triggered a loud applause when he called upon the Muslims and people of other deprived classes to unite against the ruling BJP, saying his party would counter the saffron party’s Hindu nationalism with Indian nationalism with the country’s Constitution as his party’s guiding book.

With AIMIM believed to have fielded 21 mostly illiterate and tainted candidates in the Ahmedabad polls, intellectuals have given a wide berth to the party which has, however, roped in popular Gujarat High Court advocate-activist Shamshad Pathan, who has always taken up the cudgels for riot-hit Muslims, as its spokesperson, and former Congress legislator Sabir Kabliwala as the chief of its Gujarat unit in the nick of time.

By capturing seven seats in the elections to Ahmedabad municipal corporation, AIMIM has become the first non-Congress opposition party since 1987 to be in the powerful civic board, forcing the top-drawer officials on Friday to create a special office for Owaisi’s men in the headquarters, along with Congress’s 25 corporators and BJP’s 159 councillors.

Elections to 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka (tehsil) panchayats are scheduled to be held on February 28.

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