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How come MIM did not face the “outsider” jibe in Bihar?

What is different about the appeal of MIM that parties like Shiv Sena or JMM or TMC don’t have?

A very curious thing happened in the recent Bihar elections. A party that is known mostly around Hyderabad managed to win five seats. All the way from Telangana. The JMM from neighboring Jharkhand contested elections as part of the RJD led Mahagathbandhan but still didn’t win any. Nobody knows if the Trinamool Congress, from neighboring Bengal, even contested anything.

On the face of it, you could say that this is good for national integration. It is good that voters of Seemanchal have embraced with open arms all the ideas on bijli, sadak, paani, education, employment and health that Mr. Owaisi has brought from Hyderabad. Why should it matter where he is from?

And yet, there is something unique about the success of MIM. If indeed Indian democracy has matured so much, why isn’t it rubbing off on any other party? The MIM, for instance, has seats in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena also contested elections in Bihar but lost deposits on all seats. How come the people of Bihar were not inspired by the ideas of “best CM”?

What is different about the appeal of MIM that parties like Shiv Sena or JMM or TMC don’t have?

In Indian elections, one of the most difficult tags to overcome is that of being an “outsider.” Elections are all about connecting with people. Our nation is so diverse that anyone with even a slightly different regional, linguistic, dietary or even caste background is bound to trip up somewhere.

You must have seen the accusing headlines. The BJP accused of Hindi imposition in southern states. BJP accused of imposing dietary restrictions in the North East. BJP accused of being outsiders in Bengal and so on.

Even the BJP. Even with the massive nationwide appeal of PM Modi, the BJP is regularly tripped up by the diversity of India. All parties, big or small.

Except MIM. They don’t seem to trip. Mr. Owaisi snaps his fingers and voters of Bihar begin relating with him seamlessly. They say he is going to Bengal next. Parties like the TMC seem terrified by this prospect. Why?

Think about it. Why would TMC worry that MIM might take their votes away?

Why is the most entrenched party in Bengal so scared of a party from Hyderabad? Are they similarly scared that the ruling TRS from Telangana might come and take their votes? What about DMK or ADMK? If MIM can suddenly start eating up TMC votes, why not Chautala’s INLD from Haryana?

Let us assume that Mr. Owaisi is only bringing good ideas on bijli-paani-sadak from Hyderabad. Surely then some party from say Haryana or Karnataka could come and entice voters of Bengal with another set of good ideas on development.

Let us also assume that Mr. Owaisi is a master communicator. This year, he very likely mastered the local customs of Bihar and appealed to them in a way they could understand. In six more months, I suppose he will be able to master the local customs of Bengal and appeal to them in a way they can understand. Outstanding achievement. Superhuman almost.

Or is there another explanation? Could these assumptions be flawed? Is it possible that MIM’s voters in Bihar and potential voters in Bengal are able to see a common thread that goes beyond regional variations?

What could be common between the old city area of Hyderabad, Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Seemanchal in Bihar and Malda-Murshidabad in West Bengal? What could be this common thread? Does anyone know?

Like I said, this is very good for national integration. Let us hope that everyone starts seeing common threads, not just the people in certain areas. Why should this maturity remain limited to a few segments of the population? Let it spread. Nothing more liberal than that, right?

This Bengal election, let all parties, including the “liberal” ones, agree not to accuse any Indian political leader of being an outsider in Bengal. Not on the basis of language or dietary habits or regional origin. We are all Indians. We are all insiders everywhere in India. And we should all see the common threads. Why should only Seemanchal see a common thread with the old city of Hyderabad? Let Kolkata also see the common thread with Varanasi. Deal?

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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