New kids on the block: AAP, AIMIM look to offer third force option in MP

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP and the Asaduddin Owaisi-headed All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are looking to fill the space that until now was occupied by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose political footprints are shrinking in the state.

PTIUpdated: Sunday, July 31, 2022, 12:11 PM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Results of the recent local body polls in Madhya Pradesh have seen emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Hyderabad-based AIMIM as strong contenders for the third force space in a state where the Congress and the BJP have been the dominant players.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP and the Asaduddin Owaisi-headed All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are looking to fill the space that until now was occupied by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose political footprints are shrinking in the state.

The AAP, in its maiden civic polls contest, claimed to have garnered 6.3 per cent vote share, while the AIMIM has got seven of its candidates elected as corporators.

On the other hand, the Mayawati-led BSP and the SP, which had pockets of influence in Madhya Pradesh and also legislative presence, have seen their electoral fortunes dwindling.

The ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress, however, appear unfazed by the growing number of third force contenders in the state, where bipolar politics has been the norm so far.

"We got 6.3 per cent votes in urban body polls. Of the 14 mayoral candidates, one won from Singrauli and those in Gwalior and Rewa came third. In Gwalior, we got about 46,000 votes," AAP's state president Pankaj Singh told PTI.

The fledgling outfit, which has its governments in National Capital Territory of Delhi and now Punjab, had fielded about 1,500 candidates for councillors' posts in urban bodies, of whom 40 won, while 135-140 ended up as runners up.

In the panchayat polls, held without party symbols, the AAP supported candidates won 10 posts of district panchayat members, 23 janpad members, 103 sarpanchs and 250 panchs, Singh claimed.

The party is keen on giving a strong third option to Madhya Pradesh voters in the 2023 Assembly polls as people are "angry" with both the BJP and the Congress, he said.

"Our party chief (Kejriwal) has already told us to prepare to contest all the 230 Assembly seats. We are in the process of strengthening our organization right from booth level and gearing up to fight for pro-people issues," the AAP leader said.

The AAP had contested all 29 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, getting 2 per cent votes, while in the 2018 Assembly polls, the party bagged mere 1 per cent, but the share has gone up to 6 per cent this time (in local body polls), he said.

AIMIM leader Sayyad Minhajuddin, a corporator in Hyderabad and in-charge of the party in Madhya Pradesh, told PTI over phone that they had fielded 51 candidates, including two for mayoral posts (in Khandwa and Burhanpur) and remaining for the corporators across seven cities.

Though vote share data is not available, seven AIMIM candidates have become corporators, he said.

Minhajuddin said the Hyderabad-headquartered party is yet to decide on contesting the Assembly elections.

"It will depend on our party chief (Owaisi) and organisation. But I personally think the party may contest the Assembly polls going by its performance in civic body elections," Minhajuddin added.

Asked about the BSP's poor performance in the local polls, its state president Ramakant Pippal said the party has a strong rural base and its performance in urban body polls doesn't matter much.

"Yet over five dozen candidates (of the party) have won in urban body polls," he claimed, saying data was still being collected.

Pippal, however, made it clear the party will contest the 2023 Assembly polls on all seats and dismissed the new contenders for the third front.

On the AAP's growing presence, Pippal termed it as a "Manuwadi" (of upper castes) party.

"The AAP is getting accidental votes out of the BJP's share. In Singrauli, money power played a role in the AAP's victory. This performance will not stand in the Assembly elections as they are of a different nature," the BSP leader said.

Like the AAP state president, Pippal also said the people are angry with the BJP and the Congress, and are looking for a third political option.

About the BSP's declining performance in Assembly polls during the past two decades, he said there may have been some shortcomings but all these deficiencies are being addressed.

SP state president Ramayan Singh Patel said his party could not contest civic polls with full dedication and vigour as its organisational structure was not in place.

"Only 5-6 candidates (of the SP) have won in the election as I took charge recently. However, we have started preparations for the Assembly elections in right earnest and will fight them with full vigour," he said and sought to downplay the crossing over of the lone party legislator Rajesh Shukla to the BJP.

Shukla and one of the two BSP MLAs - Sanjeev Kushwaha - recently joined the BJP.

Asked about a new third front option emerging for voters in Madhya Pradesh, state Congress Media Cell chairman KK Mishra said the AAP and the AIMIM have been introduced as the "B-team" of the ruling BJP, but this will not affect his party's prospects.

"About 60 per cent of our candidates have won in the urban civic polls, though the BJP is trying to purchase them by spending over Rs 1,500 crore," he claimed.

He said Congress mayoral candidates won in five places and one in Burhanpur was defeated only due to the presence of the AIMIM, which got 10,000 votes, while the BJP won the post by just about 700 votes.

State BJP secretary Rajneesh Agrawal said whenever the third force gets stronger in Madhya Pradesh, they eat into the Congress votes.

"The BJP has polled almost 50 per cent of votes and regained the areas it had lost in the last Assembly elections. This is for the first time in history that the BJP achieved this. So, we are going to win big in the next assembly polls," he said.

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