AIMIM vs secular parties discourse: Time to accommodate, not split apart

Asaduddin Owaisi , President AIMIM ( Photo: Social Media)

By Mohammad Shekaib Alam

The sea of confrontations Muslims of India are facing today are such that if Muslims do not change their status quo and make a calculated plan for the future, they will face harsh and very dark realities soon. At this juncture, every Muslim irrespective of profession and education has to play a role to improve the present situation of the community. If politicians have to fight for the rights of Muslims in India, similarly intellectuals and scholars have to provide ideas and ways to live in a dignified way and solve the crisis of Muslims. Muslim masses at large should get united at least on common terms between all different schools of thoughts and sects and become a single voice.

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The interests of Muslims in India have become crucial amid witnessing the initiation of several anti-Muslim policies, continued incidents of violence against themagainst their places of worship and personal properties, and then arrests of their youths on false accusations at a mass level. Having observed a very penetrating debate between Muslims themselves and among secular parties regarding Muslim votes during the recently concluded Bihar election, I intended to write this piece to press upon individuals and parties to get united for a greater purpose that is to save India, make it prosperous and peaceful for everyone. Muslims must be reality conscious. Therefore, those who care for the development of Muslims and secularist and fraternity’s nature of India should and must exert efforts in the right direction to defeat anti-secular and communal parties in India.


Since the Independence, apart from a few states where Muslim political parties exist, the general attitude of Muslims was to vote for secular parties especially for Congress throughout India. However, in the recently held Bihar election, due to the existence of All India Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which is not solely a Muslim party, secured five seats that created a lengthy and harsh debate, starting from the beginning of Bihar elections till present time. Secular parties along with many individuals alleged AIMIM as being an agent of the ruling party; Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in India, by helping it to win the election by dividing Muslims and secular votes and at the same time, allowing it to unite its anti-secular votes. Even some equated AIMIM’s supreme leader with Jinnah of Pakistan who implemented the two-nation theory propounded by VD Savarkar at first, to secure Muslim interests in a separate land called Pakistan. Mamata Banarjee, Chief Minister of the State of West Bengal in India, commented saying as there are extremists among Hindus, similarly, extremists are emerging from the minorities. On the other hand, AIMIM continued defending its position sometimes by swearing by God that it has nothing to do with the BJP and sometimes explaining its reason for fighting in the election. According to AIMIM, secular parties at large used Muslim votes to win the election only and no fruitful developments have been made for them. Apart from that, when Muslims turn to them for their affairs, they arrogantly refuse to entertain them. Therefore, to bring them to the same table, it is time, Muslims must create political power and become makers of their fortunes.


However, if we check the above claims regarding AIMIM as being vote- splitter or being extremists, we find no evidence for such. Even if we see the Bihar election results, and the vote sharing ratio among parties, it demonstrates that wherever Maha Gathbandhan had lost seats against BJP either it was due to the existence of other parties or independent candidates. There is only one constituency, namely Raniganj, where some may claim so but they must compare it with all constituencies from where Congress has lost at the same time. Therefore, it can be said that the lack of proper planning by secular parties and having no interest in sharing power with Muslims is the reason for splitting of votes. However, regarding AIMIM’s claims against secular parties, I share similar thoughts and can put several examples starting from creating the Constitution of India till the present day. However, it doesn’t fit to discuss it in this piece.

Rochana Bajpai & Adnan Farooqui (2018) had concluded their research on AIMIM that although the BJP’s extreme version of politics offered favourable ground for the expansion of a party like AIMIM, however, AIMIM cannot be entitled to extremism for several reasons including its demands of rights not exclusive to Muslims only, rather it fights for all oppressed and weaker sections in the country. AIMIM demands for rights are not based on religion and its doctrines rather based on the Constitution of India and secularism, and lastly even sometimes for example on the issue of triple talaq it fought for religious rights but it was not obstinate but rather demonstrated its disagreement with what is being made as law, and at the same time highlighted several other injustices that are happening to other groups of women but the government does not bother to think of them. In a way, the AIMIM chief Owaisi can be equated with Dr Ambedkar who fought for the rights of lower caste people within a democratic system, and not with Jinnah who divided the country on a religious line.


Considering the above developments, a few points are highlighted. Muslims, first of all, must treat all parties including AIMIM as a political party, as same as other parties, attracting them to garner their votes as other parties did and continue to do so irrespective of what they will ask for votes. However, a prominent question that should be asked by Muslims is that can AIMIM fulfil the interests of Muslims alone if voted. A practical answer would be, it cannot, until or unless it seeks support from and cooperates with secular parties due to several reasons – firstly, no matter what AIMIM claims, it will be considered a Muslim party at large in India, and BJP will use it by its specific fashion to unite and harvest Hindu votes, secondly, it must be understood, that no matter what happens, AIMIM will not get complete Muslims’ support at any time because of having various political outlooks among Muslims themselves. Third, even it is presumed that maybe all Muslims will support AIMIM but it will not be in a position to form a government of its own because Muslims are in minority in India and democracy counts the heads, neither the ideas nor the developments. Therefore, what Muslims will do with the developments that AIMIM will make for them when they are not secured is more important.


It is unfortunate that India today is completely hijacked by BJP ideologically as well as administratively. The party is putting all its efforts to keep the situation as it looks today – more poisoned and communal to establish the supremacy of Hindutva ideology with all its dirty tricks. Having said so, secular parties have become completely irrelevant today in India. Thus, to overcome this, secular parties must sit together and ponder deeply what is needed to change the current state of India for a better one.

Firstly, secular parties have to ignore their differences and get united. Secondly, they have to build an organizational structure as BJP has from top to the bottom or from Delhi to a remote village in any part of the country. Third, wherever secular parties are in the government right now must avoid corruption and work for the development of people in a fast and furious way. Fourth, secular parties must establish a rule of law and assert justice irrespective of who is before the law. Fifth, secular parties must initiate mass level educational programs where they go and meet each individual across the country at least twice a year to explain their ideology, the idea of India and why it is significant and must mention clearly why BJP’s idea of India is dangerous and will destroy the country. It must support people and parties across the country based on justice and constitutional rights.


Secular parties must realize and accept that if they had fulfilled the interests of Muslims as required and had established a rule of law without considering anyone’s pressure till today, they would not have experienced the sordid time as they are witnessing today. Had this been the case, neither would have AIMIM emerged to contest the election, nor it could win even a single seat, neither in Maharashtra nor in Bihar. But AIMIM’s win demonstrates that Muslims along with backward citizens of India are not happy with the work of secular parties, irrespective of which party it is and belongs to which state.

It also appears that AIMIM will continue to fight the election in Bengal and many other states and no doubt if supposedly, it does not win the seat, for sure, it will garner some votes that may make the communal party win the seat. To overcome this issue, it is imperative for both – the AIMIM and secular parties to come together with a strategy either to become an ally or make an understanding that AIMIM will fight from certain constituencies where secular parties will not have their candidates whereas secular parties will fight on the rest of the constituencies and AIMIM will not put up their candidates. In this way, no party will interfere in the matters of others as both aim to protect India’s secular nature. Both the secular parties and AIMIM, along with Muslims in general, if they care for India and Muslims must comprehend the highlighted points. This strategy will allow the accommodation of every party and not splitting them apart, permitting them to focus together to defeat communal parties. Otherwise, they will waste their energies on each other, which will eventually benefit their opponents.


Mohammad Shekaib Alam is a PhD scholar at the Department of Political Science, International Islamic University Malaysia.