DMK stumbles in attempt to tap Owaisi’s support, angers allies

Parties like IUML, MMK, the Congress and Left have labelled AIMIM the B team of BJP and cautioned the DMK against having any ties with Asaduddin Owaisi

Asaduddin Owaisi (left) and M K Stalin

While parties like Congress, the Left, Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress (TMC) are dead against aligning with AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, the DMK’s move to invite him to a party get-together has rightly shocked its allies in Tamil Nadu.

Parties like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Manidhaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the Congress and Left have always labelled the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) as the B team of BJP and cautioned the DMK against having any ties with Owaisi.

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In response, the DMK hurriedly dropped its move to enlist Owaisi support and reaffirmed its commitment to other allies, especially the IUML and MMK, which are seen as the Muslim face of the electorate. In the past, the DMK had aligned with only one Muslim party, the IUML. However, the entry of MMK eroded the traditional vote bank of IUML and since then both the AIADMK and the DMK have been wooing new parties like the MMK led by M H Jawahirullah. In 2011, the AIADMK reached out to the MMK to cause a division in the rock-solid support enjoyed by the DMK-led front till then. In 2016, the DMK managed to convince the IUML to accept the entry of MMK into the alliance, and this strategy has continued to date.

Apparently swayed by the limited success of the Owaisi-led party in Telangana and Bihar Assembly polls, the DMK had toyed with the idea of roping in the new party as well with a view to prevent a split in the Muslim vote bank, just in case the AIMIM decided to contest the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls this year. It is no secret that the AIMIM had cut into the votes of secular parties like Congress, Left, RJD and the like in recent elections, thereby helping the BJP achieve success in several states.

The AIMIM has been accused of helping the BJP achieve its objective by playing the Muslim extremism card, in an attempt to break the stronghold of the mainstream parties while at the same time creating a Hindu backlash, which benefits the BJP. The saffron party extends indirect support to Owaisi in this process as the Congress and parties like the SP and the Left get sidelined even in Muslim-dominated areas. Therefore, secular parties have described Owaisi as a ‘BJP agent’.

The Owaisi strategy is to play the role of Muslim extremism, in an attempt to drive a wedge in the support of moderate Muslims to parties like the Congress, Left, SP, RJD, TMC and the like. When moderate Muslims and their parties like the IUML are squeezed out in the battle between Muslim extremism on one side and hardcore Hindutva on the other, Owaisi and the BJP seek to grow and seek political dividends.

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Political observers are therefore surprised that the DMK is not alive to this political game played by Owaisi and the BJP, and is unwittingly playing into the hands of those seeking to polarize the electorate on religious grounds. The AIADMK strategy in Tamil Nadu cannot provide for inclusion of the AIMIM into its fold as it most certainly will have the BJP as its partner. For all the cosy relationship between the AIMIM and the BJP, they cannot be publicly seen as allies. Therefore, the AIMIM can, at best, contest on its own strength. The allies have pointed out to the DMK that the latter need not worry about the AIMIM too much as the party could only make a limited impact in a State where the minorities have traditionally voted in large numbers in favour of the DMK-Congress-Left alliance.