It was a sunny winter afternoon at the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in Ahmedabad’s walled city area of Jamalpur. There was a queue of people carrying some papers in their hand, with expectations in their eyes.
They were there to get their small issues with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation settled, some others wanted a representative of the AIMIM to help submit their documents to avail benefits under Mukhyamantri Amrutam (MA) Yojana, PM SVANidhi scheme where street vendors get a working capital loan of up to Rs. 10,000 and other government schemes.
AIMIM’s local leaders Mushtaqbhai Khadiwala and Beenaben Parmar were sitting at the office helping people register their grievances. There was an attendant who was busy with inward and outward registers.
Khadiwala explained to Vibes of India about these registers, as he said, “We’re a focused party. We maintain an inward and outward register to better cater to the demands and complaints of people. And we review it every 15 days to make sure that we don’t miss out on any of them.”
Besides Khadiwala and Parmar, Rafiq Shaikh and Afsana Banu also won from Jamalpur , ensuring the entire 4-member panel of the AIMIM bagged this Muslim and Dalits dominated municipal ward.
The people in the queue were carrying grievance forms where the AIMIM leaders have listed 11 different works related to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation like road repairs, drainage work and others. He added that not only Jamalpur, people from Khadia also visit their party office for work relating to AMC and the government.
This is not an isolated scenario. Slowly and quietly — but steadily — the AIMIM of Asaduddin Owaisi is getting into every nook and cranny of Muslim ghettos as well as their mixed neighbourhoods with Dalits. The Congress party, whose minority and Dalit space the AIMIM is trying to occupy, seems content at calling the AIMIM a B-team of the BJP but glosses over its own conspicuous absence on the ground.
This also applies in the case of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which again is a B-team of the BJP for the Congress. The AAP is also similarly getting into the lanes and bylanes of neglect to find space that is increasingly being ceded by the Congress party in Gujarat.
The AIMIM bagged 24 seats in the elections to the local bodies in Gujarat in February and these included 11 in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the rest in peri-urban and rural areas of Godhra in central Gujarat and Modasa in North Gujarat.
And how? Beena Parmar, who sat at the Jamalpur office in Ahmedabad when Vibes of India reached there, says, “We don’t want to be like other parties who work only during the elections. We work for people 365 days a year.”
Congress’ loss, AIMIM’s gain
AIMIM corporator from Gomtipur Afrin Khan Pathan quit the Congress to join AIMIM. Hers was not the case of any other turncoat. It wasn’t easy for her to make the switch. She had her roots in the Congress as her father-in-law Mukhtar Khan Pathan was also a corporator from the party, her mother-in-law Chandaben Pathan was the Gujarat Congress Women wing President and her husband Mohsin Khan Pathan was an NSUI (youth Congress) leader.
But she quit with the grouse that she wasn’t able to effectively raise people’s issues under the Congress. Afrin is happy she joined the AIMIM. She says, “We’re effectively raising issues concerning Dalits, minorities, and other backward classes.” Speaking to Vibes of India, Afrin beamed, “I am always on the ground taking up people’s issues in my constituency and this is why people voted for me even after quitting the Congress party.”
These words do not augur well for the main Opposition Congress party, which chooses to bask in the imagination that Gujarat has always seen a bi-polar elections and they are the only opposition. And the party is the only alternative to the BJP. While this may be true, the fact remains that the AIMIM and AAP are the spoilers for the party and it has only to blame itself for this.
AIMIM Gujarat General Secretary and Ahmedabad city president advocate Shamshad Pathan tells Vibes of India: “Ours is the only opposition party in Gujarat which is working on the ground for the people. We were the only party that gave voice to hawkers over the non-veg issue or on the issue of LPG price rise.”
Clearly spelling out their target electorate, Pathan says, “AIMIM is working on the ideology of Dr Babasaheb Ambedakar and this is why our party’s slogan is ‘Jai Bhim, Jai AIMIM’.”
Bracing for Gujarat Elections 2022
AIMIM’s Gujarat President Sabir Kabliwala told Vibes of India, “During the corporation elections, we had only 24 days to prepare but that couldn’t stop us as 24 of our corporators won. We are not leaving any stone unturned in our preparation for the assembly elections. We are in the process of forming ‘Gully committees’, some parties call it ‘page committees’ but we will have gully presidents all over Gujarat. The ruling BJP may have page presidents (panna pramukhs), we will have gully committees.” Page presidents in the BJP are in charge of mobilizing voters on every page on the electoral rolls.
Kabliwala is confident his party will announce candidates for the December assembly elections months in advance and discussions for this had already started.
“We have already constituted the party organisation of AIMIM Gujarat with district presidents and general secretaries,” he said. Kabliwala also said that his party’s alliance with the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) of Chhotubhai Vasava in South Gujarat would continue.