HYDERABAD: The All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which won two Assembly seats in Maharashtra and one seat in Bihar in the 21 October elections, has now set its sight on the upcoming Jharkhand Assembly elections that are likely to be held by December-end. AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi is already flooded with demands for party tickets from Jharkhand aspirants.

Owaisi, who won another MP from Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha elections in May from Aurangabad—Syed Imtiaz Jaleel—has now got two MLAs in the latest Assembly elections. The party fielded its candidates from 44 seats this time and finished second in another five places and secured deposits in many others, thus emerging a serious contender.

In Maharashtra, the AIMIM has won two new Assembly seats while losing two existing ones this time. The party, with MLAs from Byculla and Aurangabad in the 2014 elections, lost them and won from Dhule and Malegaon. The AIMIM leadership is pleased with its victory in the Kishangunj bypoll in Bihar where its candidate Qamrul Hoda won. The party dealt a blow to the ruling JDU here.

In Maharashtra, the Muslim-dominated AIMIM contested 44 seats on its own, unlike in the past when it entered the field from 25 seats in alliance with the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Agadhi (VBA). This time, the VBA leadership refused to offer even the 25 seats it contested on the ground that AIMIM’s votes were not transferred to it in most places.

“We were forced to contest from 44 seats this time, though we got requests for our ticket from over 70 plus seats in Maharashtra. Our aim is to contest from the constituencies where we have some presence and cadre,” a senior MIM leader told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity. In many seats, the party scored a decent number of votes, totalling around 7.38 lakh this time, he said.

Though “all-India” is part of the party’s name since inception in 1962, AIMIM gained national party status in 1989. It has a registered party status in most of the states, except in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. The party has been evoking interests from Muslims since 1991 when Babri Masjid was demolished.

Owaisi, who spoke to the local media after the latest election results were announced on Thursday, said that he was not in a hurry to go pan-India immediately. “We have been growing gradually and organically and there is no hurry for us to grow suddenly,” he said. He confirmed participation of his party in Jharkhand as well as Bihar where polls would be held next year.

AIMIM’s base in Maharashtra, too, hasn’t happened overnight. The party currently has around 150 municipal corporators and councillors in different civic bodies across the state. Contrary to belief, the party is not confined to parts of Maharashtra once under the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad. “We have a good presence in cities closer to the Gujarat border,” an AIMIM source said.

Even in Karnataka, the AIMIM has a solid presence with scores of corporators and municipal councillors in about a dozen civic bodies. Interestingly, in Karnataka, too, AIMIM’s presence is not limited to areas that were once part of Nizam’s state. Towns closer to Mangalore and others on the western coast, too, have AIMIM councillors in the civic bodies, albeit in smaller numbers.

AIMIM sources refuted the charge that its presence in Maharashtra damaged the prospects of the Congress this time. Congress, which got 44 MLAs, has lost to BJP narrowly in another five seats. Congress leaders have alleged that AIMIM had a secret pact with BJP at the national level and had damaged its winning chances in Maharashtra. But for AIMIM’s candidates, its tally would have been 49, they said.

This was stoutly rejected by AIMIM leaders. “We have contested only 44 seats there, but what about the remaining 244 seats where Muslims must have backed Congress? Why cannot they talk about their failure to secure the majority Hindu support, which went to BJP-Shiv Sena? Moreover, there is no deal between Congress and us to back them,” said AIMIM MLC Syed Amin Jafrey.

He attributed the rise of the AIMIM to the shrinking base of the Congress as well as other “secular” parties over the years. The record of other non-Congress parties often joining hands with BJP, too, might have forced Muslims to look for an alternative of their own, in the shape of AIMIM. Besides AIMIM, the Samajwadi Party, too, got a lion’s share of Muslim votes in Maharashtra.

The party is yet to take a decision on the number of seats it contests in the Jharkhand Assembly whose term expires by 27 December. Owaisi would be touring Ranchi once the Election Commission announces a poll schedule early November. There are at least a dozen seats out of the total 81-member Assembly where Muslims have a sizeable presence.

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