All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi on Sunday confirmed that his party will "definitely" contest the upcoming 2021 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Elections, adding that he had had a talk today with Bengal's influential Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui regarding this.
Much to Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee's added discomfort, it has been confirmed that the AIMIM is going ahead with the decision to contest the upcoming assembly polls, under Siddiqui's supervision.
"I met Abbas Siddiqui today and our party will definitely take part in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections. Our party will stand with decisions that will be taken by Abbas Siddiqui," news agency ANI quoted AIMIM chief Owaisi as saying.
The party, however, has yet to decide if it would contest the elections on its own or forge an alliance with another outfit.
The AIMIM chief, however, stressed that he has the support of 'peerzada' Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif -- the much- revered shrine in Bengal's Hooghly district.
Notably, AIMIM supremo Assaduddin Owaisi on Sunday arrived at Furfura Sharif in Bengal's Hooghly district and held discussions on the state's political scenario and upcoming assembly polls with prominent Muslim leader Abbas Siddiqui, sources in his party said.
This was Owaisi's first visit to West Bengal following his announcement to contest elections in the state.
"Owaisi wanted to keep the meeting a secret as we were apprehensive that the TMC government would stop him from exiting the airport," AIMIM state secretary Zameerul Hassan said earlier in the day.
Previously, Owaisi had decided to hold a virtual meeting with Siddiqui, but he changed his mind at the eleventh hour and flew down to Bengal to pay him a visit.
Siddiqui, a pirzada (religious leader) from Furfura Sharif, has been speaking out against the state government over a host of issues, of late.
Owaisi, whose party put up a good show during Bihar polls last year -- bagging five seats in the region bordering Bengal -- is thereby eyeing the influential Muslim cleric to consolidate the minority votes ahead of the assembly polls.
TMC's reaction to Owaisi's visit
The AIMIM chief's visit to Furfura Sharif, however, evoked sharp reactions from the ruling TMC.
"The AIMIM is nothing but a proxy of the BJP. Owaisi is well aware that Muslims here are mostly Bengali-speaking, and won't support him. He is trying to forge ties with Abbas Siddiqui, but that won't yield any result. Muslims in Bengal stand firmly by Mamata Banerjee," senior TMC leader and party MP Sougata Roy asserted.
AIMIM chief's rebuttal
The AIMIM chief, however, on his part, also hit out at the ruling TMC, noting that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should introspect and ascertain how the BJP managed to clinch 18 Lok Sabha seats in the state, instead of pointing accusatory fingers at the AIMIM.
Owaisi rejected TMC's claims that his party was a "B-team of the BJP", and would eat into anti- saffron camp votes.
"We are a political party; we will establish our presence and fight the elections (in West Bengal).
"... Bharat ke siyasat ka mai Laila hu, aur mere Majnu bahut hai, usse koi faraq nehi parta (I am like Laila from the popular folklore who has many admirers, but that doesn't matter)," Owaisi told reporters, hinting that many parties wish to benefit from his political endeavours.
Equations of the minority vote
A deciding factor in nearly 100-110 seats in the state, minorities especially Muslims have acted as a bulwark of the TMC against its rivals till 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Prominent Muslim leaders in the state, nonetheless, have claimed that equations are likely to change with the entry of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
According to a senior leader in the Hyderabad-based party, Owaisi has seen in West Bengal a fertile ground for his expansion plans, as Muslims constitute around 30 per cent of the state's population.
Of the 30 per cent, however, at least 24 per cent are Bengali-speaking Muslims.
Elections to the 294-member West Bengal Assembly are likely to be held in April-May.
(With inputs from agencies)