File photo of Asaduddin Owaisi. Photograph:( ANI )
Mainstream political parties have given up on constitutional nationalism. They are shying away from issues causing anxiety in the community.
The rise of Asaduddin Owaisi in Bihar politics has taken all political parties by surprise. He has not only done well but also won seats in Muslim majority constituencies.
How a political party, which was limited to Hyderabad city, has managed to make a dent in Maharashtra's Aurangabad, Mumbai, and the recently-held assembly elections in Bihar— WION (@WIONews) November 12, 2020
WION's @kartikeya_1975 analyses the rise of AIMIM chief @asadowaisi and his impact on national politics pic.twitter.com/pt2XqYKI9R
What is most surprising is the rise of a small city-based party in states like Bihar and Maharashtra which have no historical connection with his party. It is the political position taken by Owaisi on contemporary issues that has hit a chord with a certain section of the electorate in different states.
Speaking to WION, Asaduddin said, "Muslims are disempowered and mainstream parties like Congress have failed them. Congress is not fighting BJP enough." Owaisi said that he is being blamed by regional and national parties for cutting the secular vote, but secular parties are the ones who have been refraining from taking up minority issues. Political secularism is a joke," he said.
He also said that people should ask the question why Rahul Gandhi shifted his constituency from Amethi to Wayanad? "He shifted because of substantial Muslim presence in Wayanad," he said.
There is some truth in Owaisi's claim. Mainstream political parties have given up on constitutional nationalism. They are shying away from issues causing anxiety in the community. National parties seem to be opposing BJP less as the national narrative has made constitutional nationalism less appealing. On the other hand, Owaisi has been taking up all issues head-on which major parties have remained silent throughout the political campaign.
Owaisi is also bitter with Congress. "Rahul Gandhi used to say in rallies that a man is para-dropping in these elections in a helicopter. Only Rahul Gandhi has the right to travel in helicopters," asked Owaisi.
He maintains that he has received support from the minority community because major political parties are not giving enough representation to the Muslims and their economic issues are not being addressed.
He also counters the charge that he is helping sectarian politics grow. He says that no one has asked political parties to not to speak about Muslims, but it is just so that they are not talking about them. Rise of Owaisi is also not completely out of sync with trends of the last 40 years.
Backward caste politics has been splintered into caste-based politics. Rise of BJP has led to the consolidation of the majority of Hindus under a bloc and minority politics has seen the emergence of leaders and social media who are solely taking up minority issues.