AIMIM Eyes MP’s Malwa-Nimar Region in Civic Body Polls, Tests Ground for Assembly Elections

Of the 51 candidates fielded by AIMIM, 38 of them are contesting from the communally sensitive Malwa-Nimar region that paves the way for the state assembly.

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Bhopal: The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimee (AIMIM) would be contesting its maiden municipal elections in the Malwa-Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh – which has witnessed at least 12 incidents of communal tension since September 2020.

The Asaduddin Owaisi-led party has fielded its candidates in Khargone, Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Burhanpur, Ratlam and Khandwa.

Of the 51 candidates fielded by AIMIM, 38 of them are contesting from the Malwa-Nimar region. The remaining 13 candidates are contesting from different wards of Jabalpur and Bhopal, a party functionary told The Wire.

The party has fielded two mayoral candidates for the municipal polls from Burhanpur and Khandwa, which are considered to be the nerve centre of electoral politics in Madhya Pradesh. As compared to Khandwa, Burhanpur has a sizeable Muslim population.

As per the 2011 census, Muslims constitute 4.7 million, or 6.57%, of the state population of 72.7 million.

On May 2, police arrested the kin of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader who was trying to fuel communal violence on the eve of Eid-Ul-Fitr in Nimar’s Burhanpur district. This happened three weeks after communal clashes broke out in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone following Ram Navami rallies.

Though Khandwa remained untouched after communal clashes broke out in the neighbouring Khargone, several precautionary measures were taken and section 144 was imposed immediately.

Watch | ‘RSS-BJP Have a List of Mosques, This Won’t Stop at Gyanvapi’: Assaduddin Owaisi

The turf battle

While the BJP is pushing for a “triple engine government” with the same party in power in local bodies, the state and at the Centre, the Congress is trying to focus on unemployment, inflation and corruption.

The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led administration has ordered a series of demolition or ‘anti-encroachment’ drives in the neighbourhoods where communal clashes erupted. The authorities claimed that they targetted the rioters and “ensured justice” by razing their houses, however, most of those houses were owned by financially disadvantaged Muslims.

The Muslim voters appear to be neither happy with the BJP nor the Congress. The AIMIM will hope to grow its base by appealing to disillusioned Congress voters.

The AIMIM hopes to open its account in the region which is considered to be a stronghold of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as well as the prime base of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) faction led by Safar Nagori, who is lodged in jail for being a key conspirator in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts.

Ahead of the polls, AIMIM conducted a survey in at least 20 districts of the Malwa-Nimar and the central region of the state, led by party leader Syed Minhajuddin.

With the local body polls, the party is looking to test the ground for next year’s state assembly elections. The communally sensitive Malwa-Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh comprises 66 assembly seats out of the state’s 230. It is often said that this region paves the way for the state assembly.

While addressing a rally in Jabalpur on June 27, Owaisi said the Congress is a “spent force” in the country and people shouldn’t waste their vote on that party.

“Congress has become a spent force in the country. It has lost its existence, don’t waste your vote on it,” he said while addressing a public meeting to drum up support for the party candidates contesting the upcoming municipal elections in the state.

He cited the All India Survey of Education report saying that Muslims are lagging in every sphere.

“I want to ask the Congress and the BJP who is responsible for this? If you all don’t come up as a political force nothing will change,” he told the audience.

The local body elections are scheduled to be held on July 6 and July 13. They will cover 298 nagar parishads, 99 nagar palika parishads and 16 municipal corporations. The first phase of counting of votes will take place on July 17 and the second phase on July 18.

In 2018, the Congress won 35 seats out of the total 66 while the BJP’s tally fell to 28 in the assembly elections. In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP won 56 out of 66 seats in the region and wrested all the eight Lok Sabha seats from this region in May 2014.

It is perhaps for the first time in the history of Madhya Pradesh that a political party has joined the election fray by fielding candidates in the municipal elections, ahead of the upcoming 2023 assembly elections.