Why Is AIMIM, Which Claims To Be Secular, Not in the DMK Camp?
AIMIM has sealed the deal with TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK in Tamil Nadu for the upcoming Assembly elections.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has sealed the deal with VK Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran in Tamil Nadu for the upcoming Assembly elections. But before this deal was brokered, the party was in talks with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
Why did the AIMIM not end up in the DMK camp? The DMK- Indian National Congress alliance is called Secular Progressive Alliance.
In December 2020, the DMK minority wing secretary had met AIMIM party president Asaduddin Owaisi in Hyderabad to invite him to a minority conference in January, 2021. The move did not go down well with DMK's Muslim allies - the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK).
The Dravidian party was then forced to withdraw the invite and a senior leader reportedly apologised to Owaisi.
While DMK leaders tried to dodge questions surrounding AIMIM’s induction into the fold, the latter said that the talks were not successful as the Dravidian party didn’t accept their demands.
“DMK wants Muslim votes but doesn’t want to give authority to Muslim leaders. Our leader tried speaking to them. But they told us to be a part of the alliance even though we won’t be given any seats or representation.”Vakeel Ahmed, Tamil Nadu President, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)
The DMK Flip-Flop
A source close to the DMK said, "Our allies with whom we have had long association had objections to partnering with another Muslim party. And also Owaisi had the label of being a ‘non-local and a BJP agent’ which doesn’t go well in Tamil Nadu”.
The AIMIM’s state leadership was quick to rebut these charges. “Yes, Owaisi is headquartered in Hyderabad. Then where is Congress from? They too are not traditionally from Tamil Nadu?” Ahmed said. According to the AIMIM if people of Tamil Nadu can accept the Congress, they will be ready to accept the AIMIM too. Meanwhile, a source confirmed that Owaisi was earlier in talks with actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. The conversation with Haasan, however, did not come through, the source added.
Who Gets the Muslim Vote?
In the alliance led by the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM has been allotted three constituencies in Tamil Nadu – Vaniyambadi, Krishnagiri and Sankarapuram.
The three constituencies have a majority Muslim population and so, for decades the Dravidian parties have fielded only Muslim candidates here.
While the late J Jayalalithaa enjoyed generous support from minority communities, the AIADMK can no longer count on the same given its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On the other hand, almost all major Muslim parties in Tamil Nadu, including the IUML, with a significant base in Kadayanallur, Ramanathapuram and Ambur, and the MMK with its base in Ramanathapuram and Palayamkottai, are in the DMK camp.
Analysts have opined that the AMMK-AIMIM alliance could divide votes, benefitting neither of the two Dravidian parties.
“TTV Dhinakaran is being operated by the BJP to ensure anti-incumbency votes do not go to DMK. But Owaisi is not a cause for concern. He stands exposed and people of Tamil Nadu are smart to understand this. Also, DMK is a party that stands for its principles. We don’t campaign for minority votes and don’t play vote bank politics.”Saravananan Annadurai, DMK Spokesperson
AIMIM state president refuted these claims. AIMIM is ‘anti-BJP’, he claimed.
"We joined hands with TTV Dhinakaran only after we were assured that he will not have an association with the BJP," Ahmed told The Quint.
‘Non-Urdu Speaking Muslims Not With AIMIM’
"Both Stalin and EPS have betrayed Muslims. So people want an alternative and we are giving that. There are Muslims in all the 234 constituencies in Tamil Nadu. Based on their vote share, shouldn't these parties be giving at least 12 seats if they call themselves secular?” asked Ahmed.
Meanwhile, the DMK spokesperson argued that a newcomer like Owaisi will not be welcomed by the people of Tamil Nadu.
"He may have individual charisma but people won't vote for him because he is not from the state and has a deleterious effect on secular electoral politics," said Annadurai.
A source close to the DMK also said that Owaisi draws his support mainly from Urdu-speaking Muslims, who are more in number in the northern parts of Tamil Nadu. In the constituencies where the AIMIM plans to contest, mostly Tamil-speaking Muslims reside. “People of Tamil Nadu want to vote for Tamil people and not outsiders,” the source said.
However, this is not AIMIM’s first time contest in Tamil Nadu.
AIMIM'S 2016 Poll Performance
In 2016 Assembly elections, the AIMIM had fielded Vakeel Ahmed from Vaniyambadi and the party managed to get 10,117 votes which is 5.9 per cent of the total vote share. The AIADMK’s candidate got 69,588 votes and won this constituency.
The election to Vaniyambadi is quite crucial to DMK and AIADMK as it is close to several key districts such as Vellore, Thiruvannamalai and Tirupathur. Here, Muslims constitute around 25 percent of the vote share, while Vanniyar and Mudaliyar caste groups constitute around 50 percent of the vote share.
This time, AIMIM party chief Asaduddin Owaisi has reportedly decided to campaign for his party in the three constituencies allotted to the party. In 2016, he had urged people to give AIMIM an opportunity in the elections. “How long will you give a chance to Congress and the two Dravidian parties?” he had asked.
The party is confident of winning the elections this time. “We will emerge victorious and make an impact,” an AIMIM leader said.
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