By Mohammed Shafeeq, IANS,
Hyderabad : After snapping ties with the Congress both in New Delhi and in Andhra Pradesh, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is now looking to grow beyond its traditional stronghold in Hyderabad.
With 18 months left for the elections (if the Congress government survives any no-confidence motion), the MIM is gearing up to widen its base in Telangana and Rayalaseema regions having sizeable Muslim population.
Political analysts say as Congress is facing a huge task of winning the third straight election in the absence of a charismatic leader like Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the MIM decided to leave the sinking ship.
Though MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi knows to play cards close to his chest, the Muslim political party may find a new ally in fledgling YSR Congress party, headed by son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy who had close relations with MIM.
Owaisi always praised Rajasekhara Reddy for his commitment to the welfare of Muslims. As Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy promises to continue the four percent reservations for Muslims in education and jobs and the scholarships for Muslim students introduced by his late father, MIM may find a natural ally in him.
Owaisi, the London-educated barrister who has now turned into a mature politician, will hit the campaign later this month to target the Congress over what he called its communal behaviour and pandering to Sangh Parivar.
He will be looking to mobilise support in constituencies where MIM plans to field its candidates in the next elections.
The MIM in its five-decade history in post-independent India never had a pre-poll alliance with any party and was seen more concerned to protect its traditional base.
However, it was always believed to have tacit understanding with Congress under which the latter fielded minority Hindu candidates in Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency and some assembly segments in the state capital.
Such is the political domination of MIM in the Muslim-majority old city of Hyderabad that no political wave elsewhere in the state has had any impact here.
"All waves including (TDP founder) NTR (N.T. Rama Rao) wave of 1983 stopped at Nayapul (the bridge across Musi River connecting old city)," said Owaisi, who is representing Hyderabad parliamentary constituency since 2004 when his father Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi opted out after winning all the elections since 1984. He passed away in 2008.
Owaisi, who also emerged as a powerful voice of the community at the national level is keen to expand the party in other parts of the state and also in other regions of the country.
Party sources pointed out how the MIM changed the political scene in Nanded town of Maharashtra by bagging 11 seats in the last month's elections to Nanded Municipal Corporation.
The MIM has a good presence in majority of the 10 districts in Telangana and in Anantapur district and some other pockets in Rayalaseema. It is now looking to strengthen its base to increase its strength in 294-member assembly.
In 2009, the MIM won seven assembly seats in Hyderabad, which was its best-ever performance. The party sees a potential to emerge as a kingmaker in the event of a hung assembly.
Muslims are about 10 percent of the state's 84.6 million population. They constitute about 40 percent of Hyderabad's nearly eight million population and 15 to 25 percent in some pockets of Telangana and Rayalaseema.
Established in 1928 with the aim to keep then Hyderabad State independent, the MIM was banned after the state's merger with the Indian Union in 1948.
However, in 1958 it was revived with a new constitution by Moulana Abdul Wahid Owaisi, grandfather of Asaduddin Owaisi, to champion the cause of Muslims.
The party claims that its biggest achievement was to give a political platform and an identity to the community passing through turbulent times after 'police action' - the operation by Indian Army in 1948 against the Hyderabad State to force it to merge with the Indian Union.
Often branded as communal by its critics, the MIM, however, claims to represent the interests of not just Muslims but all socially and economically backward classes of society.
The MIM claims to be the only political party in India to develop a chain of educational institutions including medical and engineering colleges and state-of-the-art hospitals offering services to the poor at subsidized rates.