In a significant political development ahead of the crucial Assembly polls in West Bengal, the alliance between Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), and the newly-formed Indian Secular Front (ISF) of Abbas Siddiqui, is likely to run in to a rough weather with the new political equation emerging between ISF and the Congress-Left Front.
Owaisi saw a huge political opportunity in the State and since 2011, his party has slowly started working in the bordering areas of the State where the Muslim population is high. After winning the Kishanganj seat in Bihar for the first time, Owaisi paid more attention towards West Bengal. Though he is yet to launch AIMIM officially in the State, Owaisi has already engaged local youths to spread its ideology and party’s stand towards the Muslims, mainly in Kolkata, North Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri and Nadia districts.
But with the new political equation emerging in State’s politics, it is difficult for Owaisi despite his recent unscheduled meeting with Siddiqui, to create any impact in the upcoming elections if the party decides to contest.
The talks between Siddiqui and the leaders of the Congress and the Left Front are going on since December, 2020. In all the meetings, Siddiqui was told that the Congress and the Left Front are only interested in alliance with him if he dissociates himself with Owaisi’s AIMIM. The reason: both the Congress and the Left feel that AIMIM is not a secular party.
As Owaisi reportedly expressed his desire that Siddiqui should contest the elections on AIMIM’s symbol, the Congress and the Left leaders asked him to form a separate political party as they are not interested in AIMIM.
It seems that even Siddiqui is more inclined towards having an alliance with the Congress and the Left Front and it was evident when he named his new political party Indian Secular Front (ISF) on January 21 as suggested by leaders like Md Salim, Adhir Chowdhury, Abdul Mannan and veteran (late) Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s brother, Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, popularly known as ‘Dalu da’.
While announcing his new political party, Siddiqui had said, “I am not going to contest the polls but I will play the role of a kingmaker.”
It seems that the political equation between Owaisi and Siddiqui is almost over after Congress leader Abdul Mannan wrote a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi seeking her nod for the alliance with Siddiqui.
“We have started unofficial dialogue with ISF and WBPCC President Adhir Chowdhury has visited Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif shrine. He called our move a positive development. The addition of ISF in the Left-Congress alliance may be a game changer in the ensuing Assembly elections,” Mannan letter reads.
Speaking to the News18.com, CPI (M) Politburo Member, Md Salim said, “It is known to all that we were in touch with Abbas Siddiqui for the last few months. We told him to form a secular party and then only we can negotiate further on how to contest the polls. Now, he has floated a secular party, which consists of minority, matua community leaders, marginalised people and tribal leaders, we will talk further, we can further initiate talks on seat sharing formula.”
He said, “Since, we want to have alliance with Abbas Siddiqui without Asaduddin Owaisi and the Congress already got a nod from their high command in Delhi, this alliance is certainly going to help us to keep forces like Trinamool Congress and the BJP away from Bengal in this upcoming polls.”
When contacted by senior State AIMIM leader Zameerul Hassan, he said, “It is difficult to predict anything in politics. But it is a fact that the communication between Abbas Siddiqui and AIMIM leaders are not happening as it should be and that too when the election is near.”
He said, “If wife and husband are not on talking terms then divorce is the only option.”
Abbas Siddiqui’s brother Naushad Siddiqui, the Chairman of Indian Secular Front, is very much optimistic about their alliance with the Congress-Left Front and claimed that soon they will be able to communicate a clear picture on how many seats all three combined (ISF, Congress and Left Front) will contest in the upcoming polls.
In the context of AIMIM, he said, “Our main target is to fight against the communal forces like BJP. As of now we are optimistic about the alliance with the Congress-Left Front. Let’s see what happens in future. At present we are in talks on seat adjustment and soon it will be clear.”
Abbas Siddiqui is an influential cleric of Furfura Sharif Darbar located in Jangipara in Hooghly district and his decision to contest the 2021 state elections could be a worry for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee due to inevitable division of Muslim vote share.
Though he is against the BJP, his decision to contest the assembly polls is likely to help the saffron brigade as TMC is going to suffer the most due to division in Muslim vote share.
With more than 30 per cent vote share, Muslims are undeniably a deciding factor to turn the tables for any political party in West Bengal. They were the deciding factor during the Left rule till TMC came to power in 2011 under Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata knows it well that any significant division in the Muslim vote share, a deciding factor in nearly 90 Assembly segments out of 294 Assembly seats in the State, could jeopardise her mission 2021 Assembly polls.
Time will tell how things will unfold but certainly this Assembly poll is going to be one of the toughest fights for TMC and the BJP.