Congress, BRS-AIMIM Woo Muslims in Telangana; BJP Hopes Division to Help it 

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The state is home to a large Muslim community which supported K. Chandrashekhar Rao in the past two terms. This time around with the emergence of Congress as a major force, Muslim voters are faced with a real dilemma.

Team Clarion

HYDERABAD – With barely a fortnight to go for the assembly elections in Telangana, political pundits are engaged in a guessing game so far as Muslim voters are concerned.

A resurgent Congress, buoyed by its victory in Karnataka assembly polls on the corruption plank and despite BJP’s high-voltage Hindutva pitch, is clearly eyeing a major chunk of the Muslim votes in Telangana. Traditionally, Muslims have voted for the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) or what until was the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and its ally, the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The Congress always enjoyed the support of the Muslim community until the separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh in 2014. This time around, the party has been attempting to conflate the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with the BRS in its campaign narrative.

Political analysts feel that although a majority of Muslims voted for the BRS the last time in 2018, several factors would decide which way the minority vote could swing this time. At 13% of the population, Muslim voters have the capacity and potential to tilt the electoral tide in the state as they hold sway in at least 40 of the state assembly’s 119 seats. The BRS has seemed extremely short of Muslim leaders within its fold and is relying completely on AIMIM to secure Muslim votes.

Telangana goes to polls on November 30. Results will be declared on December 3, along with the electoral results of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram.

The BJP, it seems, is waiting on the sidelines ready to take the spoils of the tug-of-war between the BRS and AIMIM and the Congress as they are using everything in their armour to lure the Muslim community. It hopes that the Muslim vote is divided between the Congress and BRS-AIMIM and thus becoming inconsequential. 

The Congress campaign has been targeted at Muslims with several promises for their welfare and progress. It said it would increase the budget up to Rs 4,000 crore annually towards minority welfare. It also promised to ensure fair reservation for all backward classes including, minorities in jobs, education and government schemes. Additionally, Congress promised Rs 1,000 crore per annum to provide subsidised loans to jobless minority youth and women. Under the Abdul Kalam Taufa-e-Taleem Scheme, the party said it would provide financial assistance of Rs five lakh to Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and other minority youths upon completing M.Phil and Ph.D programmes, it said.

Not to be left behind, the BRS has rolled out several welfare schemes directed at Muslims and is hopeful that the AIMIM leadership of Owaisi brothers will take them through.

Besides offering several sops to the Muslims, the party claims there is an ‘unholy alliance’ between the BJP and the BRS. Congress leaders in their campaign have been harping on several instances when the BRS has sided with the BJP in parliament on several key issues directly affecting the Muslim community. 

But, the BRS says the Congress and the BJP are “two sides of the same coin”. Asaduddin Owaisi, the man BRS is relying on to get Muslim votes into its fold, has blamed previous Congress governments for the communal riots in the state and his brother has gone on to say that there was a secret deal between the Congress and BJP and “the RSS and the VHP will work for the Congress”.

The AIMIM plans to spread its fangs and is expected to contest from 25 assembly seats where Muslim votes could be decisive. The constituencies include Adilabad, Nirmal, Nizamabad, Mahbubnagar, Kamareddy and Rangareddy. 

In all of this, the BJP has called out BRS for practicing what it calls appeasement politics and announced that it will remove the 4% quota given to Muslims.

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