Meira Kumar, presidential candidate of the Congress-led opposition, failed to secure the open support of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), when she visited Hyderabad on Monday. The AIMIM has one Lok Sabha MP—Asaduddin Owaisi—who represents Hyderabad, and seven MLAs in Telangana and two MLAs in Maharashtra.
Though the vote value of the AIMIM in the overall Electoral College of Presidential polls may be low (1,807), the loss of its support to the Congress is significant, as it exposed divisions in the opposition camp. Meira Kumar, who pinned hopes on the vocal support of the AIMIM, was clearly disappointed over Owaisi’s absence at her supporters’ meeting.
Questioned on this, senior Congress leaders in Telangana feigned ignorance and said that the AIMIM chief was absent at the Congress-led opposition parties’ meeting right from the beginning. “We don’t know who was to contact and invite Owaisi to Meira Kumar’s luncheon meeting,” former MP Ponnam Prabhakar told this newspaper. Enquiries revealed that Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy had tried to invite Owaisi to Meira Kumar’s reception in the city, but the Hyderabad MP was unavailable. Some senior leaders who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity said that it was the job of AICC leaders in Delhi to take the AIMIM into confidence.
“There seems to be some communication gap between us (AICC) and the AIMIM MP on the President elections; somehow, we failed to ensure his support,” said a former PCC president seeking not to be quoted. An AIMIM spokesman told The Sunday Guardian that the party was yet to take a stand on the two main contenders in the election.
AIMIM’s absence at the Congress Presidential candidate’s meeting is also attributed to the party’s friendship with the ruling TRS in Telangana. Though not an open electoral ally, AIMIM is closely aligned with the TRS on most issues and is a strong supporter of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). At the same time, the AIMIM is not keen on being with the Congress either in the state or at the national level.
Meira Kumar faced some more disappointment when she tried to meet KCR on her visit to the city. She called the CM twice seeking his appointment, but KCR declined even to take her call. Congress leaders termed it as an insult to a former Lok Sabha Speaker who had presided over the House when the Telangana Bill was passed three years ago.
However, TRS leaders defended KCR’s decision not to meet or talk to her, on the ground that it would be politically inappropriate.
TRS MP Balka Suman attacked Congress leaders for making Meira Kumar a “scapegoat” in the Presidential election. “If they were serious about Meira Kumar, they should have informed us (TRS) about her candidature much before the BJP did. Now, the Congress is only creating a controversy to blame us,” he told this newspaper on Friday.
On the contrary, Kovind’s campaign went on well in both the Telugu states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. He received a President-like welcome in Hyderabad when CM KCR hosted a grand lunch for him at Jala Vihar, on the banks of the Hussainsagar Lake in the city. Scores of welcome hoardings were erected along the route from the airport to the venue.
In his welcome speech, KCR listed the problems faced by Telangana and urged Kovind to pay his attention to such problems as the next President of India.
The grand welcome and send-off to Kovind at the airport looked like as if he was already the President of India. The entire Telangana Cabinet and scores of TRS MLAs and MPs turned up to receive Kovind.
Kovind also got a reception from the MPs and MLAs of YSR Congress which is the principal opposition in Andhra Pradesh. YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy preferred to meet Kovind in Hyderabad instead of at Vijayawada where he was received by TDP president and Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
Jagan even touched Kovind’s feet, seeking his blessings. Similarly, Telangana’s two TDP MLAs and five BJP MLAs and one Union minister—Bandaru Dattatreya—met Kovind separately in Hyderabad and extended their support to him. Both the CMs—KCR and Naidu—are keen on ensuring resounding victory for Kovind in the two states.