Congress Jittery Over AIMIM’s Entry in Karnataka Poll Fray

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The worry for Congress is that besides Muslims, the party may also eat into Dalit votes since it is reaching out to the community with the slogan ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem’

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — The entry of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the electoral politics of the poll-bound southern state of Karnataka has made Congress party jittery. It feels that AIMIM’s entry into the poll fray would invariably divide the secular vote and give an upper hand to the ruling BJP.

The Hyderabad-based party with a pan-India ambition has already named three candidates — for Belagavi North, Hubballi, Dharwad East, and Basavana Bagevadi in Vijayapura district — for the assembly polls. The party plans to field candidates in at least 20 more constituencies, media reports said on Thursday.

AIMIM will be contesting assembly elections in Karnataka for the first time. It supported JD(S) in 2018. The worry for Congress is that besides Muslims, the party may also eat into Dalit votes since it is reaching out to the community with the slogan ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem’.

“We plan to field candidates in constituencies where the combined vote share of Muslims and Dalits is more than 35%,” media reports quoted AIMIM state general secretary Latifkhan Amirkhan Pathan as saying.

Pathan is also the party candidate from Belagavi North.

“We have identified about 20 such constituencies and we will contest at least 16 seats.”

The general perception is that AIMIM tends to split the minority vote, but the trend is not universal to all states. The party failed to make a difference in states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Gujarat. But in 2020 Bihar elections, the Mahagathbandan led by the RJD suffered a lot as AIMIM dented its vote bank significantly.

The AIMIM won five seats and bagged 1.2% of the votes.

In Karnataka, the AIMIM is nicely poised, as it has a sizeable presence in local bodies in north Karnataka, media reports said.

The party won two seats in Vijayapura Municipal Corporation, one in Belagavi City Corporation, and two each in Bidar and Basavana Bagevadi city corporations.

“Most SC-reserved seats are dominated by Muslim voters”, said Pathan. “For instance, Muslims account for 30 per cent of the electorate in Nagthana, and about 26 per cent in Kudchi.”

Saleem Ahmad, state Congress President, said AIMIM decision to contest Karnataka elections will only benefit the BJP.

“We have formed teams from our minority cell to reach out to minorities and Dalits and explain to them the dangers of dividing the secular vote. We hope to convey our message to the voters convincingly,” he was quoted as saying.

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