Hyderabad : It is business as usual at Darus Salam, the Majlis headquarters. People crowd around the party MLAs and the Hyderabad MP, Asaduddin Owaisi, to represent their problems. The latter doesn't betray any signs of undue concern or stress about the ensuing Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. By now hitting the campaign trail away from Hyderabad, the party's traditional stronghold, and knocking off seats has become a habit for him.

The latest to fall in Majlis kitty is 24 seats from Gujarat local body polls. This small but significant success in the Prime Minister Narender Modi's bastion couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. The victory served as a shot in the arm for the Majlis which celebrated 63rd anniversary of its revival the other day. Keeping track of the Majlis electoral success is becoming a bit difficult now with the party snatching seats left, right, and centre.

"Grateful to people of Modasa for blessing Majlis with love and trusting us with their votes. We are now the chief opposition party in Modasa and Insha'Allah we will fulfill the role to the best of our abilities", tweeted Owaisi after his party's impressive show in the Gujarat elections.

A week ago the Owaisi-led AIMIM won seven seats in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation which went to polls on February 21 with the Congress losing considerable ground to the new entrant.

Once confined to the old city of Hyderabad, the Majlis is slowly but steadily spreading its footprints across the country. Having become the voice of minorities, it wants to increase the Muslim representation into legislatures proportional to the population. "People want an alternative. They root for those who work for them", said Majlis MLC Syed Aminul Hasan Jafri.

Today the Majlis has its presence in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu apart from Telangana. With an impressive tally of 2 MPs, 7 MLAs, and 2 MLCs in the Telangana legislature, five in Bihar, one in Maharashtra, the Majlis has come a long way. Not a small achievement for a party that had a lone MLA in 1962 and was confined to just the walled city of Hyderabad.

This apart the party has scores of corporators and councilors outside Hyderabad. Today the AIMIM enjoys the 'State Party' status in Telangana with 'kite' as its reserved symbol while in Maharashtra, Karnataka and UP it has bagged the 'Registered Party' status.

What is the secret behind this spectacular success? Hard work and sacrifices of the Owaisi family. Not many know that the Majlis was formed to protect the socio-cultural and religious ethos of the Muslim community on November 12, 1927, at a meeting hosted by Nawab Mahmood Khan Qiledar. It was then known as Ittehad Bainal Muslimeen. In 1938, Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung became the Majlis president and was conferred the title of Qaid-e-Millat. He served the party till his death in 1944.

In 1957, Qasim Razvi headed the Majlis and also the controversial militia, Razakars. He wanted to hand over the party's reins before he was packed off to Pakistan. When he called a meeting of the Majlis governing council only a few members turned up. And none of them was ready to take up the party's mantle. It was a young barrister, Maulvi Abdul Wahid Owaisi, the grandfather of Asaduddin, who came forward and picked up the gauntlet.

Later he set about transforming the party to meet the requirements of electoral politics. After the Police Action in 1948 the Majlis had become all but defunct. There were widespread fear and despair among the Muslims who had witnessed the massacres and lootings in the wake of the Police Action.

After a decade of inactivity, Wahid Owaisi revived the party on March 2, 1958, and took up the onerous task of organizing the community and shoring up its sagging spirits. Fakhr-e-Millat as he was called, rechristened the party as All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and got it registered as per the Indian Constitution. The party had arrived but there were no takers to it initially.

During the course of building up the party, Wahid Owaisi had to suffer a lot and even undergo a long jail sentence. This did not deter him. On the other hand, he emerged stronger and raised a voice against injustice and oppression. But little did he know that the fledgling party would be known throughout the length and breadth of the country one day.

The AIMIM made major electoral gains ever since Asaduddin took over its reins after the demise of his father Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi in September 2008. There was no looking back thereafter. Election after election the party has proved that its success is not a flash in the pan. Now the Hyderabad MP has set his sights on the upcoming Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Assembly polls.

The oratorical skills of Asadduddin Owaisi and his younger sibling Akbaruddin Owaisi, and their strident posturing against the Sangh Parivar have given them an iconic image. And their scintillating performance in Parliament and Assembly have won them laurels and also votes. But many feel the AIMIM's decision to turn into a pan-Indian party would only deepen communal polarization.

Owaisi may notch up a few seats in Muslim-dominated constituencies across the country but this would result in the consolidation of Hindu votes to the benefit of the BJP. This was clear in Bihar where Majlis victory spoiled the Mahagathbandhan chances.

Whatever the AIMIM's foray into national politics has set the cat among the pigeons. Parties opposed to the BJP feel Owaisi is out to split the Muslim vote which they also vie for. "Am I to be blamed for their inability to combat BJP politically", asked the firebrand leader rubbishing the charge that he is out to cut secular votes. The fact, however, remains that the AIMIM has emerged as a dark horse.

J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. His third book - Urdu Poets and Writers , Gems of Deccan  - is just released. Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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