AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s Kolkata rally – to kickstart the party’s campaign ahead of Bengal Assembly election due in April-May – has been cancelled after the police refused permission, party leader Zameerul Hasan was quoted by news agency PTI on Wednesday night.
Mr Hasan said the party – which the Trinamool has attacked as one “brought in to divide Muslim votes (that would normally fall to the ruling party)” – had applied for permission 10 days ago, and were only informed of the rejection this evening.
“We had applied 10 days back for permission. But today we were informed by the police that they will not permit us to hold the rally… we can’t be cowed down by such tactics of the ruling Trinamool. We will discuss and soon announce a fresh date,” Mr Hasan said.
Thursday’s rally was to have taken place in the Muslim-dominated Metiabruz area of Kolkata – which falls in the parliamentary constituency represented by Abhishek Banerjee, who is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew – and be headlined by Mr Owaisi.
The police have not commented and Trinamool leaders have denied involvement, although they were quick, once again, to attack the “proxy of the BJP”.
“We have no role in permitting a rally organised by AIMIM which is nothing but a proxy of the BJP in Bengal,” Trinamool MP Sougata Roy said, adding, “Muslims here are mostly Bengali-speaking and won’t support him… stand firmly with Mamata Banerjee.”
The Trinamool’s distrust of the AIMIM was underlined by Ms Banerjee last month; she said “… a party from Hyderabad… takes money from the BJP… to get Muslims votes so Hindus vote for BJP”.
Mr Owaisi and the AIMIM come to Bengal after a good result in the Bihar election; the party won five of the 20 seats it contested and picked up 14.28 per cent of the votes in those seats.
He visited Bengal last month to discuss a possible alliance with Abbas Siddiqui at Furfura Sharif, a place of religious significance for Bengali Muslims, and to ask him to be the AIMIM face.
Last week, however, Mr Siddiqui and his Indian Secular Front (ISF) were said to have joined the Congress-Left-led opposition, according to Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Today Mr Siddiqui said talks were still going on and that he would not oppose Mr Owaisi’s AIMIM.
The BJP, meanwhile, has scoffed at both the AIMIM’s involvement in Bengal and the Trinamool’s claim of an agreement between the two opposition parties. Off the record they also say they expect Mr Owaisi’s presence to hurt Ms Banerjee, given she counts on Muslim votes.
Thirty per cent of Bengal voters are Muslim and analysts say they vote for Ms Banerjee en masse, making her almost invincible. To counter this, the BJP has accused her of “Muslim appeasement”. Mr Owaisi’s presence – an alternative for that Muslim vote – could be a red flag for the Trinamool.
With input from ANI, PTI