Ahmedabad: Amid debate on why the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is not contesting the forthcoming civic elections in BJP bastion Gujarat, speculations are now rife in a section of media and political circles that Asaduddin Owaisi changed his mind after "talks" with local Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
Asaduddin Owaisi, who represents Hyderabad in Parliament is president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), whereas Ahmed Patel is considered as close aide of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Two days after ummid.com reported that questions are being raised on why Asaduddin Owaisi, who repeatedly declared that the AIMIM will contest elections in every Indian state except Assam and Kerala, avoided contest with the BJP in Gujarat, reports are abuzz that Asaduddin Owaisi and Ahmed Patel have actually become "Bhai-Bhai" and that the former allegedly struck a deal with the later for not contesting the polls in Gujarat.
Simultaneously, Gyasuddin Sheikh, MLA of Dariapur in Ahmedabad, while talking to the media persons also gave the impression that the 'MIM story' ended in Gujarat without even a start at their behest.
He also claimed that from now on all the "MIM sympathizers in Gujarat" will work for the Congress candidates contesting the civic elections, according to local journalist Abdul Hafiz Lakhani.
The elections to 323 local self-government bodies in Gujarat will be held on November 22 and 29 with Anandiben Patel, the state's first woman chief minister, in office for close to two years. The election, a major popularity test for Anandiben Patel, will be the first after Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in the 2014 General Elections.
According to State Election Commissioner Varesh Sinha, polling will be held first on November 22 for the municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, all of which are controlled by the BJP, and have 9.49 million eligible voters. The votes will be counted on November 26.
Lakhani also said that there was as such no "enthusiasm" for the AIMIM in Gujarat as claimed by its party leaders, and the entire 'AIMIM euphoria' was actually manufactured.
Meanwhile, the local Congress workers who were persuading Asaduddin Owaisi to field AIMIM candidates in the civic polls, now say they did so to create a pressure group so as to bargain with the Congress party for the benfit of the community, Kalim Siddiqui, who met Asaduddin Owaisi, said.
The Congress workers approached Asaduddin Owaisi after his younger brother and AIMIM floor leader in the Telangana assembly Akbaruddin Owaisi, accepted Prime Minister Modi's challenge to contest election in Gujarat.
According to the reports, Narendra Modi while addressing an election rally in Hyderabad in the run up to the 2014 General Elections had asked: Akbar-e-Azam, Aapka lashkar Gujarat kab aayega?
In the midst of Bihar battle, AIMIM MLA from Aurangabad Imtiyaz Jalil had also said that the party had decided to set its foot in Gujarat.
The AIMIM leaders, who regularly invoke 2002 Gujarat riots to incite emotion of the Muslim community, however backtracked from their decision to contest the Gujarat election, citing absence of local base as the reason.
Asaduddin Owaisi's honeymoon with the Congress is not new. In fact, he has for long allied with the Congress - both at the centre and in the state. He however changed course after the BJP victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and declared to expand his party, which is based in Hyderabad, to other parts of the country.
But, by doing so he invited the wrath of the secular parties, which peaked to its height when the controversial AIMIM MP from Hyderabad fielded candidates in the recently concluded Bihar elections, despite appeals from different quarters not to do so.
Interestingly, Asaduddin Owaisi, who is now accused of striking a deal with the Congress for not contesting elections in Gujarat, during the Bihar polls was termed as "BJP and RSS agent", and was also accused of holding secret meeting with Prime Minister Modi, both the allegations vehemently denied by Owaisi.
Right or wrong, Asaduddin Owaisi's decision not to contest the Gujarat polls is a timely shot in arm for the Congress. For, the party was completely demoralised and was wiped out from many areas, especially the urban areas of Gujarat.
However, the unexpected support the Congress received from the Patel community after Hardik Patel's quota stir turned the equation in its favour. Asaduddin Owaisi's entry into the Gujarat battleground should have surely disturbed this equation, at least in the Muslim dominated areas.