The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM) exuberant confidence knows no bounds, particularly after the Islamist party was able to win five seats in Bihar’s Seemanchal region and dent the prospects of other parties on multiple seats. Asaduddin Owaisi is planning a pan-India spread for his party, and after Bihar, the Hyderabad MP is turning to West Bengal, which goes to polls early next year. While it was known for quite some time that the AIMIM would be keen to enter the fray in Bengal, a declaration has come by Owaisi himself this time round. AIMIM is said to be eyeing the minority-dominated districts of Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur for the 2021 state elections.
However, the AIMIM contesting the polls in Bengal is not as important as the party’s strategy to go about fighting in the state for the next few months. Asaduddin Owaisi has caught TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee by surprise, and has proposed a pre-poll alliance with the Ma, Mati, Manush party. Inevitably, this has put both the TMC and Mamata Banerjee herself in a catch-22 situation. Here on, both acceptance or rejection of the AIMIM’s proposal will have severely destructive consequences for the incumbent party. Interestingly, Owaisi’s proposal of a pre-poll alliance with the TMC has come in the backdrop of many ruling leaders in Bengal, and Banerjee herself, taking pot-shots at the Hyderabad MP and his party.
“I am watching that there are some extremists among minorities,” Mamata told her party workers in Coochbehar. “They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them,” she added. Asaduddin Owaisi’s move of extending an olive branch towards the TMC is well-calculated, and his party will benefit irrespective of whether the ruling party of Bengal accepts the proposal or not. Just in case Mamata Banerjee decides to ally with the AIMIM, the Hindus of West Bengal, who are in any case disgusted by the current state of affairs, will even more concretely rally behind the BJP. This will, naturally, result in the TMC being obliterated next year, and the saffron party storming to power. Allying with the AIMIM should ideally be a no-starter for Banerjee, but considering how desperate the TMC is to save their power, a pre-poll alliance as proposed by Owaisi cannot be entirely considered an impossibility.
By rejecting an alliance with the AIMIM, the TMC will be digging its own political grave, to put it simply. The incredible ability of the AIMIM to cut votes has already been established with their performance in Bihar. The Muslim-vote being split between the TMC and AIMIM, inclining more so towards the latter will again spell a disaster for the ruling party of West Bengal. It will also mean that the excessive minority appeasement of the TMC would have gone down the drain, and amounted to a grand nothing when it mattered the most. A split Muslim-vote will immensely benefit the BJP, as the Hindus will be consolidating their support behind the saffron party, in contrast to a fragmented vote surrounding the TMC.
It is precisely for such reasons that we believe the TMC and Mamata Banerjee are caught in a catch-22 situation. The minority-vote, despite her constant appeasement politics, is not solidly favouring the TMC. It is fragmented in favour of the party at best. Meanwhile, in the course of trying to win over an unwinnable vote bank, the TMC alienated Hindus of Bengal big time, leading them to support the BJP. AIMIM being a potential vote-cutter of the TMC should serve as a reminder to Mamata Banerjee, and all other political leaders in the country, that minority appeasement will drain excessive energies, without fruitful dividends being promised.