Mudassir Nazar’s household has historically voted for opposition events that espouse secularism however within the just lately concluded elections within the jap Indian state of Bihar they as a substitute forged their poll for the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) social gathering which advocates for the rights of Muslims and different marginalised teams.
“Our village [Bohita] nearly unanimously voted for AIMIM,” mentioned Nazar from Muslim-majority Kishanganj district in Seemanchal area of Bihar.
AIMIM managed to win 5 seats from the state which has a considerable Muslim inhabitants. Its residents say India’s opposition events which espouse secularism have ignored the impoverished area for many years, which is wedged between Nepal and Bangladesh.
“There’s a sense within the (Muslim) group that secular events like (Indian Nationwide) Congress have betrayed the Muslims,” Nazar advised Al Jazeera.
“They (the so-called secular events) have been reluctant to even speak in regards to the anti-minority choices of the ruling authorities, not to mention oppose them. AIMIM alternatively has been fairly vocal and appears to have gained the belief of the group,” he mentioned.
Indian Muslims, who type 14 p.c of the nation’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, have grow to be more and more marginalised in recent times as they lose political illustration.
At the moment, out of the 543 members within the decrease home of India’s bicameral parliament, solely 27 (lower than 4 p.c) of its members are Muslims – the bottom in 40 years.
Hindu nationalist agenda
Since coming to energy in 2014, the federal government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as a part of its Hindu nationalist agenda, has handed a number of legal guidelines and laws that critics say discriminate towards Muslims.
Final yr, a controversial citizenship legislation, which activists say isn’t according to the nation’s secular structure and a proposed citizenship register sparked nationwide protests led largely by Muslims.
The Modi authorities additionally stripped the disputed Kashmir area’s restricted freedoms final August and positioned the Muslim-majority area underneath a communication blockade for greater than six months.
Opposition events such because the Nationwide Indian Congress social gathering, for whom Muslims have historically voted for, have been accused of being silent on key points which threaten the Muslim group – India’s largest minority group.
For many years, AIMIM was confined to the southern metropolis of Hyderabad in Telangana state however in recent times it has managed to enterprise into Muslim-majority areas, tapping into Muslim frustration about political disenfranchisement.
The social gathering is led by Asaduddin Owaisi, a four-time member of parliament recognized for his feisty debates in parliament in addition to on TV. Owaisi has emerged as a vocal conduit for Muslim points within the nation.
AIMIM has accused India’s opposition events of failing to talk out towards Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
“These (secular) events out of varied electoral compulsions haven’t come ahead brazenly to protest towards the selections of the (BJP) authorities that go towards basic values of the (Indian) structure. That has led some sections of Muslims to show to AIMIM, as they see it as a counter-force,” Avinash Kumar, an assistant professor in political research at Jawaharlal Nehru College (JNU), New Delhi, advised Al Jazeera.
“When each so-called secular social gathering is competing to show itself as a torchbearer of majoritarianism, whereas ignoring the situation of marginalised communities, it’s a very pure course of to see the rise of a celebration with [a] deal with the plight of a specific group.”
A nationwide attraction
Throughout state election campaigning in Bihar, the Congress social gathering and its regional ally the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) prevented elevating points that have been pertinent to Muslims.
“These events campaigned on points like employment and growth solely, as a result of by raking up minority discrimination points, they didn’t need to let go of the bulk votes,” Majid Alam, a journalist based mostly in Bihar, advised Al Jazeera.
“So a bit of Muslim voters determined it was time to completely rally behind a celebration (AIMIM) that was vocal about their points.”
Some analysts say that AIMIM will emerge as the primary Muslim political group within the nation’s post-independence historical past with a nationwide attraction, although an awesome majority of Muslims nonetheless vote for opposition events.
“We’ve got raised problems with injustices meted out to all minorities together with Muslims and other people acknowledge that. It has now began to replicate in our electoral performances,” Waris Pathan, Nationwide Spokesperson of AIMIM, advised Al Jazeera.
The social gathering polled greater than 500,000 votes within the latest elections versus the 2015 state elections when it had barely managed 80,000 votes and didn’t win a single seat.
“Bihar isn’t an aberration. We’ve got improved our numbers wherever we’re contesting. In Maharashtra (elections) final yr we elevated our vote share considerably and in addition managed a few seats,” Pathan mentioned.
Nevertheless, the senior chief and nationwide spokesperson of AIMIM, Syed Asim Waqar believes the social gathering is a viable various not just for Muslims however for the nation as an entire.
“We by no means characterize ourselves as a Muslim social gathering, Waqar advised Al Jazeera. “We’ve got managed to win seats even in areas the place Hindu inhabitants is in majority and Muslim proportion could be very much less. It’s potential solely as a result of Hindus significantly Dalits are additionally voting for us.”
Within the Bihar state elections, the social gathering joined with the Bahujan Samaj Social gathering (BSP) and Rashtriya Lok Samta Social gathering (RLSP), which characterize numerous marginalised castes apart from Muslims.
AIMIM fashioned an alliance with a Dalit social gathering in Maharashtra within the 2019 common elections and gained a parliamentary seat outdoors its bastion in Hyderabad for the primary time.
Political analysts say AIMIM’s rise has been potential largely due to the charisma of Owaisi, who has captured the creativeness of India’s younger Muslim voters.
“His look, model and language are not any match to any of his contemporaries and that has been an enormous issue within the rise of AIMIM, ” mentioned Mohammad Reyaz, an assistant professor of journalism at Aliah College within the jap metropolis of Kolkata.
Wearing a Sherwani, a conventional lengthy tunic worn by South Asian Muslims – and sporting a cranium cap, the 51-year-old chief of AIMIM can usually be seen fiercely debating his opponents on prime time TV information.
“He (Owaisi) additionally speaks effectively within the parliament; with loads of authority and after thorough analysis. That has additionally captured the minds of Muslim voters and clearly, it’s now getting mirrored in his electoral numbers,” Kumar from JNU mentioned.
However some opposition events within the nation accuse AIMIM of dividing the Muslim vote, thereby serving to the BJP.
“Whereas the Bharatiya Janata Social gathering is polarising the folks of the nation on spiritual strains, AIMIM can also be doing the identical. It (AIMIM) by no means achieves something substantial electorally however solely divides Muslim votes which helps BJP and its allies to come back to energy,” Meem Afzal, the nationwide spokesperson of the Indian Nationwide Congress social gathering advised Al Jazeera.
Unfazed by criticism, the social gathering is now eying the upcoming elections in West Bengal state the place Muslims type 27 p.c of the inhabitants.
“The purpose undoubtedly is to ascertain a pan-India presence,” Adil Hasan Azad, AIMIM Youth President of Bihar, advised Al Jazeera.