The Non-choice for Muslim Voters: Why Owaisi May Fail Yet Again in Bihar
File photo of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. (PTI)
Despite showing an impressive performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and winning an assembly constituency in October 2019, Asaduddin Owaisi may fail yet again in Bihar.
Owaisi’s party All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was no-show, an absent performer in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections even if it chose to fight in the Seemanchal area which has a significant Muslim population. The party fought on six seats and lost deposits in five. The only good thing for the party was that it was the runner-up in Kochadhaman constituency with its candidate getting 26.14% of votes.
AIMIM, though, threw up some surprises in 2019.
First, it performed well in the only Lok Sabha poll it fought in the Muslim-dominated Kishanganj constituency. Though the party could not win the seat, it made the fight triangular. The seat was won by the Congress with 33.32% votes. The JD(U) was the runner-up with 30.19% votes and AIMIM was at third position with 26.78% votes.
AIMIM led in Bahadurganj and Kochadhaman assembly segments while it was at the second position in the Amour assembly segment. The party was at number three in the other assembly segments: Kishanganj, Thakurganj and Baisi.
And then it went on to win the bypoll of the Kishanganj assembly constituency in October 2019. AIMIM’s Qamrul Hoda won the seat.
But that may not be repeated in the 2020 assembly polls despite Owaisi making CAA-NRC as his electoral pitch and AIMIM may yet again stare at figures similar to the 2015 elections even if it is fighting in alliance with the RLSP and BSP and has fielded candidates on 20 seats.
The primary reason is the Muslim voters may prefer the RJD-Congress's Mahagathbandhan over Owaisi to keep the JD(U)-BJP out of power in Bihar. Owaisi’s party might have gained some significant votes in Kishanganj last year but the party was not a winner and the election was not about forming the government in Bihar. The same logic extends to the bypoll as well which it won just by 10,000 votes. And Muslims may ditch Owaisi in Kishanganj too as the runner-up in the assembly constituency was BJP. They may flock to a Mahagathbandhan candidate this time to prevent splitting of votes.
How Owaisi’s party may split Muslim votes and how that would help only the NDA becomes clear by looking at the table above. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the Kishanganj parliamentary constituency, the JD(U), a BJP ally, got a significant number of votes as they were divided between Muslim candidates fielded by all these parties. Though Congress won the seat, it was just by a thin margin of 3% votes; otherwise the difference would be quite significant. Add to it the emergence of the BJP in Kishanganj in the 2019 bypolls when it gave a good fight in a district where 70% of the population is from the Muslim community.