The AIMIM’s expansion may come at the cost of Mahagathbandhan
The venue of the election rally is Janta Haat, in Kochadhaman, in Kishanganj district of north Bihar, a crowded market, selling all kinds of wares, from luridly coloured sweetmeats, to masalas, to dried fish. Men, women, children, young men on motorcycles impatiently blowing the horn, some on cycles, some others pushing their carts, all trying to inch towards the ground where under a green canopy, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi is speaking.

Mr. Owaisi’s poll pitch is clear — AIMIM is the only party that hit the roads against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and he is the only one who had the ‘guts’ to tore the legislation in Parliament. The remaining others are betraying the electorate and stealing their votes, he said. He points fingers at JD(U) president Nitish Kumar for garnering votes with the promise of “sangh mukt” bharat and later as Mr. Owaisi says “sipping milk in PM Modi’s lap.” “Yeh aapki ladai hai, aapke bachchon ke mustakabil ki ladai hai [This is your fight, this is the fight for your children’s future],” Mr. Owaisi said.

He appeals to the crowd to gain “zehani” or mental and “siyasi” or political freedom from these parties. He promises schools, colleges, hospital, an airport at Purnia among a long list of promises.

The crowd listens to him patiently, claps and roars at his words. It waits patiently till Mr Owaisi wraps up his speech, boards his helicopter and it stands around till his helicopter is no longer visible.

In a close contest, as Bihar Assembly elections 2020 are turning out to be, one of the key questions is: Will the AIMIM play a bigger role than just being a spoiler? He first came to Bihar five years ago contesting in the 2015 Assembly elections. He has managed to gain more trust since then but there are also many who reject what they call his “fundamentalist” ideas.

The AIMIM is also courting the Dalit community with Jai Bheem and Jai Meem narrative. His supporters claim that Mr. Owaisi is the only one who talks on constitutional lines. There is a young and old divide too, with the younger lot seeing the AIMIM as the fresh alternative to the RJD and the Congress. The older voters are worried about the party’s strident line.

“We do not need fundamentalist discourse here,” Naushad Alam, from the Palsa panchayat in the Amour Assembly constituency, said. Pointing to his neighbour, Mr. Alam added, “He is a Yadav, when he and I do not have a problem eating together or mingling together why should any one else have. This is my India and his. It is ours.”

Regardless of the critics, the AIMIM’s presence has visibly grown. There are more AIMIM posters than that of the Congress or RJD and more campaign vehicles blaring out loud pleas to vote on “patang chap”. It is still not clear whether he has the critical mass of support to play more than a spoiler’s role in this election, regardless, the AIMIM has made it a close contest.

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