Curiosity is growing over the Mahakutami choice from the Charminar Assembly constituency. Mohd Gouse of the Congress and Ali bin Ibrahim Masqati of the Telugu Desam have shown interest in contesting from what is considered a crucial seat in the Old City. Masqati has reportedly offered to join the Congress if it is ready to field him from Charminar.

It is learnt that the TD has not claimed on the Charminar constituency in the Mahakutami seat sharing pact. According to sources, no one from the party is ready to contest from the constituencies where the MIM is strong.

In view of this, Ali Masqati is in touch with a few leaders of the Congress for Mahakutami alliance.

Mohammed Ghouse, the Congress, has been telling senior leaders that he has strived hard to strengthen the party in the Old City.

Political observers said that if the Congress nominated Masqati, Gouse could leave the Congress which would weaken the party in the Charminar constituency.

The seat has been in the party’s kitty for ten terms in a row. If the Majlis party has anything to boast about in this election, then it is the competence to hold Charminar constituency seat for 10 terms in a row.

The MIM won the seat in 1967 and ever since representing the seat non stop for the last 47 years.

Majlis leader late Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, who was popularly known as Salar, bagged the seat in 1967 and made his debut as a MLA. He won by defeating Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) candidate C. L. Meghraj by a margin of 7,500 votes.

Out of a total of 62,976 voters, only 36,775 turned up to vote.

While Salar managed to get 17,902 votes, his rival Meghraj could get 10,402 votes. Five persons contested the election and over 54 per cent polling was recorded then. The party is having a free run here since then.

The party’s firm grip on the constituency has ensured its victory even in toughest times.

In 2009 after the delimitation of the constituency Ahmed Pasha Quadri bagged it after defeating TDP candidate Ali Bin Ibrahim Masqati by 10,695 votes

Canvassing by top leaders of various political parties cut no ice with the voters. In 2004 the party won by 1, 07,921 votes against TDP candidate Tayabba Tasleem.

It was a similar case in 1999 when TDP contestant Syed Shah Noorul Haq Quadri was defeated by a margin of 93,505 votes.

In fact, Majlis president Asaduddin Owaisi made his debut in full-fledged politics after he contested and won the Charminar seat in 1994. He defeated MBT candidate Hussain Shaheed by a margin of 40,544 votes. A total of 19 candidates contested the elections and deposits of 17 were forfeited.

The highest polling percentage in Charminar Assembly constituency recorded so far was in the year 1983 with 81.37 poll percentage.

Of the total 1, 14,333 votes in that year 93,035 votes were polled and Majlis managed to get 50,724 votes. The runner up was C. Ashok Kumar of BJP who could get 18,218 votes.

Sultan Salahuddin contested and won the seat in 1967, 1978, 1983, Syed Hassan in 1972, Mohd Mukarramuddin in 1985, Virasat Rasool Khan in 1989, Asaduddin Owaisi in 1994 and 1999.

Later Ahmed Pasha Quadri, contested from the seat in 2004 and 2009. He will try his luck again in 2014 elections.

AIMIM’s unconquerable fortress
For the last half-a-century, the Charminar Assembly segment in the southern part of the city has not only been a strong bastion of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), but has also turned out to be a stepping stone to the Indian Parliament for two generations of the Owaisi family.

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The party won the Charminar seat for the first time in 1967 and since then, it sort of became an AIMIM citadel which opponents, despite best efforts and trying out various strategies, have failed to breach.

This time around, senior party leader Mumtaz Ahmed Khan is testing his luck from the seat.

AIMIM leader the late Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi bagged the seat in 1967 and made his debut as a legislator. He won the seat then by defeating Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) candidate CL Meghraj by a margin of 7,500 votes. Since then, the party’s firm grip on the constituency ensured its victory even in the toughest of times.

The Charminar seat was a launch pad for party president Asaduddin Owaisi too. In fact, Asaduddin made his debut in full-fledged politics after he contested and won the Charminar seat in 1994. He defeated MBT candidate Hussain Shaheed by a margin of 40,544 votes in an election which had a total of 19 candidates and 17 of them forfeiting their deposits. Asaduddin contested from the seat again in 1999 and won.

Interestingly, after representing the Charminar assembly constituency, both Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi and Asaduddin Owaisi moved over to the Parliament.

During the delimitation of constituencies in 2009, Charminar was bifurcated with a part of it transferred to the newly carved out Bahadurpura assembly constituency. After the delimitation, Ahmed Pasha Quadri won the seat defeating TDP candidate Ali Bin Ibrahim Masqati by 10,695 votes and in 2014, he defeated TDP candidate MA Basith.

The highest polling percentage in Charminar Assembly constituency recorded so far was in the year 1983 at 81.37 percent.

This time around, AIMIM leader Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, who previously successfully held the Yakutpura seat is contesting from here and his close rival is expected to be Congress candidate Mohammed Ghouse, who quit from AIMIM and joined Congress a few years ago.

Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, popularly known as Salar, meaning commander or leader, was the man who restructured and shaped the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen as a full-fledged and effective political party.

Lead actively by him, the party first won a seat in the municipal election from Mallepally in 1960. In the next two years, it contested Assembly elections and won the Pathergatti Assembly seat in 1962.

SS Owaisi, after the victory, gathered together eminent members of the community and the party started contesting from multiple seats.

In 1962, Salahuddin won from the Pathergatti Assembly seat as an independent candidate and later won from the Charminar constituency in 1967 which he represented till 1984. He then entered the Parliament winning the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat in 1984 and setting a record of sorts with six straight terms.

The AIMIM suffered a setback in 1993 when its legislator Amanullah Khan ‘revolted’ against the party, charging it of adopting a weak stand on the Babri Masjid demolition issue. He was suspended by the party.

Khan took away Yakutpura legislator Mumtaz Ahmed Khan and floated the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT). In the elections held in 1994, the strength of AIMIM slipped from the earlier 4 seats to just one i.e., Charminar, while two seats it earlier held were won by MBT candidates, Amanullah Khan and Mumtaz Ahmed Khan.

Salar did pull the party strength back into shape soon. He died in 2008 and since then, his son Asaduddin Owaisi is the president of the AIMIM.

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Charminar Assembly constituency profile
Home to the historic monument Charminar, this area is rich in culture and history. Replete with food joints, which offer the authentic old city cuisine, and popular markets such as Lad Bazaar, this locality witnesses a beehive of activity all through the year. The famous Mecca Masjid and Unani Hospital are in this area and people from far-off areas come here to visit the historic monuments.

Surrounded by Puranapul, Lad Bazaar, Moghalpura, Khilwat and parts of Chaderghat and Lal Darwaza, Charminar is the gateway to the old city in Hyderabad.

Demography: As per the 2011 Census, Charminar constituency has a population of 2,70,649 — 100 per cent urban. The percentage of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population is 3.13 and 0.6 respectively.

Political history: Charminar Assembly constituency is one among the 15 constituencies in Hyderabad. It was created in 1967 and is part of Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency. Though Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi candidates contested in the 2014 elections, it was AIMIM’s Syed Pasha Quadri, who emerged victorious.

2014 elections: AIMIM’s Syed Pasha Quadri won the seat in 2014 elections by a majority of 36,615 votes.

Why Congress is struggling hard to concquer Chaminar?
The Congress party is gearing up to make inroads into Hyderabad’s Old City, more than three decades after it lost power, in the upcoming Assembly elections in Telangana. The party has already invited its President, Rahul Gandhi, to participate in an event at the city’s historic Charminar, picking the day carefully.

Dubbed the ‘Sadbhava Yatra Commemoration Day’, the event on October 20 will mark 28 years since former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi launched a yatra from Charminar to quell communal tensions in Old City.

The Congress claims that the reason for the AIMIM’s smooth sailing all these years was the understanding that the two parties had while going to the polls.

Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy said, “AIMIM was able to win from the Old City for the last three decades only due to the strategic silence of the Congress party. We never fielded tough candidates, allowing AIMIM to register easy victories in most of the seats. But this time, Congress is serious about not only contesting those seats, but winning most of them.”

The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the state has already said that the AIMIM is a ‘friendly’ party but that they would still contest the seats in the area. Accordingly, it has put up seemingly weak candidates who stand no chance in the polls.

The main rivals to the AIMIM, besides the Congress, depending on particular seats, are the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the BJP.

The Congress has already conducted several surveys in the area and claims that the findings were “quite encouraging”. The party claimed that unlike the huge mass support that the AIMIM claims to enjoy, it only got 30% of the votes as voter turnout in the seven seats was low, at an average of 52%.

The party is betting its chances on a two-pronged strategy of fielding strong candidates while also rallying citizens to increase the polling percentage.

It also says that it will focus on issues close to the voters, from lack of development in the area, to unemployment, housing, health, education, civic infrastructure among other issues.

“The time has changed. People will not get fooled by fake and tall claims by any politician. AIMIM cannot survive just by exploiting the sentiments of poor people on the assumption that they (people) have no alternate to them in the Old City. We (Congress) are the best alternate and people will choose us this time,” a senior Congress leader said.

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Constituencies and contestants
Political observers, however, say that the Congress has a lot of work to do if it is serious about putting up a tough fight.

Take Yakutpura, for example. The last time the Congress held the seat was when MA Rasheed won it in 1962, before which Shabuddin Ahmed Khan from the party had won it in 1957.

Since then, the seat has exchanged hands between Independent, AIMIM and MBT candidates, including one term by AIMIM leader Salahuddin Owaisi in 1972, but never the Congress. In fact, even in the 2014 polls, it was the BJP which was a runner-up and not the Congress.

Anti-incumbency seems to be a factor against sitting MLA Mumtaz Ahmed Khan. The AIMIM is not ignoring this and has chosen to field one of their strongest candidates – party general secretary and present Charminar MLA Ahmed Bin Pasha Qadri, a known face in the streets and a close confidant of Salahuddin Owaisi.

In Malakpet, the Congress stands a slightly better chance as Malreddy Ranga Reddy got elected from the party as recently as 2004. However, the AIMIM is confident and has renominated Ahmed Bin Abdullah Balala.

Chandrayangutta is a bastion of the AIMIM, with Akbaruddin Owaisi holding the seat continuously since 1999. Prior to this, the seat was held by MBT founder Amanullah Khan, who was elected to the constituency since it was notified in 1978 until 1999. The Congress will face a tough battle here if it plans to contest.

Charminar is one of the most crucial seats in Old City and the Congress has never been able to crack it, which is why it is pinning its hopes on the October 20 event to kickstart its campaign. The seat has been an AIMIM stronghold since it was notified in 1967. The AIMIM is generally assured of a win here and has put up Mumtaz Ahmed Khan.

The AIMIM is unfazed and says that the Congress poses no real threat to them.

The party refers to the Congress’ vote share in the 2009 Assembly election where it got 6.33% in Charminar, 8.07% in Chandrayangutta, 10.38% in Yakutpura, 7.83% in Bahadurpura and 13.83% in Karwan, thereby losing its deposits in five out of the seven seats.

In 2014, the AIMIM points out, the Congress again performed poorly and didn’t get even 10% of the total vote share in the seven seats. Their performance in the 2016 municipal elections was also similar.

They also highlight the fact that the Congress has barely taken up any causes over the last few years and is even willing to bank on leaders who have left the AIMIM, with no leaders of their own.

Speaking to #KhabarLive, AIMIM MLC and senior leader Syed Hasan Jafri said, “The Congress is presently in talks with the TDP and calling it a ‘Mahakutami’ or grand alliance, but both parties are nowhere there in Old City. The BJP is also not there in the picture now. It is going to be a friendly contest between the Majlis and the TRS in all the seven seats. The BJP and Mahakutami will fight for third and fourth places only.” #KhabarLive