Such has been the dominance of AIMIM in Hyderabad politics for over four decades that its stronghold remained immune to the political waves sweeping the state.
No matter which party was in power in the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh, the support base of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) remained intact.
There has been no change after Telangana was carved out as a separate state in 2014. Despite the reservations the Asaduddin Owaisi-led party had over the division of Andhra Pradesh, the party adapted itself to the new political scenario dominated by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
While maintaining its firm grip over the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency and seven Muslim majority Assembly segments in the city, AIMIM backed TRS in the rest of the state both in 2014 and 2018 elections.
This friendship and the secular image of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao helped TRS secure the support of Muslim voters.
With a huge concentration of Muslim voters in state capital Hyderabad and some other districts, they are in a position to tilt the balance in nearly half of the 119 Assembly constituencies.
Muslim voters are believed to be between 35 and 60 per cent in 10 constituencies in Hyderabad and anywhere between 10 and 40 per cent in the 50 other constituencies spread across the rest of the state.
Except the eight Assembly constituencies where AIMIM candidates were in the fray, the party backed TRS in all the remaining constituencies.
While AIMIM’s political opponents accuse the party of pursuing communal politics, CM KCR on many occasions defended his friend and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. He lauded the AIMIM chief for fighting for the Constitutional rights of Muslims in a democratic manner and even talked of using the services of Owaisi to forge a national alternative to both BJP and Congress.
BJP, which is going aggressive to capture power in Telangana, has been targeting KCR for his friendship with Owaisi and accusing the TRS leader of pursuing politics of appeasement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders of BJP have slammed KCR for appeasement politics. Digging up the past, the state leadership of the saffron party has been making bitter attacks on AIMIM, calling it a party of Razakars’.
Razakars’ were the volunteers or supporters of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) who backed the Nizam who wanted to keep the state independent after India gained Independence in 1947.
Thirteen months after August 15, 1947, Hyderabad State acceded to the Indian Union following India’s military action codenamed Operation Polo’.
MIM was founded 1927 to promote the socio-economic and educational development of Muslims. After Operation Polo’ hastened the accession of Hyderabad State into the Indian Union in 1948, MIM was banned.
However, in 1958 it was revived with a new constitution by Moulana Abdul Wahid Owaisi, grandfather of Asaduddin Owaisi. A well-known lawyer in those days, Abdul Wahid Owaisi converted it into a political party to fight for the rights of the minorities as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
“Those who wanted to go have gone. Those who love the country choose to remain here,” says Asaduddin Owaisi in response to BJP’s taunt of Razakars’.
He dismisses allegations of pursuing communal politics and maintains that AIMIM believes in Indian Constitution and has been fighting for the Constitutional rights of minorities, Dalits and others.
AIMIM made its electoral debut in 1959, winning two municipal by-elections in Hyderabad. In 1960, it emerged as the main opposition party in Hyderabad.
Abdul Wahed Owaisi’s son Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi was among the party leaders elected to the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH).
The party underwent image makeover in the 1980s when Salahuddin Owaisi made three Hindu corporators of the party mayors of Hyderabad. Those were the days when Hyderabad used to witness frequent communal tensions.
From municipal wards in the old city of Hyderabad to two Lok Sabha seats in 2019, AIMIM has come a long way in its six-decade-long journey in Independent India.
More than three decades after first winning the Hyderabad seat, the party expanded itself in true sense in 2019 by wresting the Aurangabad seat in Maharashtra from the Shiv Sena.
A party confined to the old city of Hyderabad till a few years ago, AIMIM was a butt of ridicule by its rivals for calling itself an all-India party.
The party now has 10 MLAs — seven in Telangana, two in Maharashtra and one in Bihar. Its tally of MLAs was 14 till recently, but four MLAs in Bihar switched loyalties to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
While continuing its efforts to expand to various states, the AIMIM is treading cautiously to check BJP’s surge in Telangana.
In a tactical move aimed at stopping the BJP from politically exploiting emotive issues like September 17, AIMIM for the first time in its history has decided to celebrate the day this year as national integration day.
It was on September 17, 1948 that Hyderabad State was merged with the Indian Union. AIMIM always opposed celebrating the day on the ground that there is only one Independence Day for the entire country.
The BJP has been targeting TRS for not officially celebrating Telangana Liberation Day’ due to pressure from Owaisi.
However, political analysts say that KCR may come under increasing attack from BJP for his friendship with AIMIM.
“KCR wants to herald a secular government in India by achieving a BJP mukt Bharat’. If BJP is communal, how can MIM be secular? Bonhomie with Owaisis raises questions over secular politics ultimately helping BJP in majoritarian consolidation,” says professor K. Nageshwar.