Monday, May 27, 2024

Triangular fight in Aurangabad: Will AIMIM’s Imtiaz Jaleel defeat three saffron-clad candidates?

Aurangabad is currently witnessing a fiercely competitive triangular electoral contest.

Imtiaz Jaleel, the sitting MP and a journalist-turned-politician representing the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is facing tough competition. His opponents are from the two factions of Shiv Sena: Chandrakant Khaire, contesting for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT), and Sandipanrao Bhumre from the Eknath Shinde-led faction. Khaire is a former four-time MP, and Bhumre is a four-time MLA and the current Employment Guarantee Minister.

The race also features Afsar Khan, associated with the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and running as an Independent, and Harshavarshan Jadhav, another Independent candidate, who is a former MLA from Kannad and has won in 2009 and 2014 for Raj Thackeray-led MNS and undivided Shiv Sena, respectively.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Jaleel narrowly defeated Khaire, while Jadhav came in third. Jaleel’s victory, with a slim margin of 4,492 votes, was significant as it ended a long-standing dominance by the Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP alliances in the region. His alliance with the VBA, which has since dissolved, played a crucial role in his win.

A political analyst in Maharashtra expressed skepticism about Jaleel’s chances this time, said to Maktoob, “AIMIM’s alliance with VBA ensured that he gets votes from Dalits and other marginalized communities last time.”

A VBA consultant also noted, “More than fifty percent of 389,042 votes Jaleel got last time are VBA votes. He won’t get these votes this time.”

The constituency’s demographic includes about 19% SC/ST and OBC voters, and with a 22% Muslim population, these groups’ preferences will be pivotal.

Afsar Khan, a four-time corporator and former leader of Opposition in the Sambhaji Nagar municipal corporation, has spent two decades with the Congress before joining VBA. He is also targeting Muslim votes, but Jaleel’s popularity among Muslims might challenge Khan’s efforts.

An AIMIM local leader remains optimistic, stating, “A large chunk of Dalit-Muslim votes will go to Jaleel as people are unhappy with the Congress and Shiv Sena for not giving ticket to any Muslim candidate in the state.”

Jaleel, who is facing competition from three saffron parties including the BJP, remains confident in his accomplishments within the constituency.

Jaleel says, “My previous 5-year tenure is available for all of you. I’m one of the only Members of Parliament who is presenting all the work done in my tenure.”

Khaire who has notably softened his earlier hardline Hindutva stance, aiming to attract Muslim voters, has been actively engaging with the Muslim community, even visiting an Idgah on Eid, where he and Jaleel were seen exchanging greetings. In a video that went viral recently, Khaire who has ditched his pet Hindutva slogan “Khan pahije ki baan pahije” and turned ‘secular,’ was heard praising the Muslim community for “showing restraint” during the communal unrest that rocked the city a day ahead of Ram Navami in April 2023

“But I think, the Muslim voters in Aurangabad will vote for Shiv Sena which has a history of unleashing anti-Muslim violence in the region,”said Zahid, local journalist in the city.

Jadhav, closely associated with the Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM), has been a key figure for Maratha voters, especially after leading the Maratha movement in 2018 and 2019. He received 283,798 votes last time, accounting for 23.68% of the total votes. He is still counting on this support, which could potentially impact both Shiv Sena candidates.

Aslah Kayyalakkath
Aslah Kayyalakkath
Aslah Kayyalakkath is a Founding Editor of Maktoob. He tweets @aslahtweets
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