Hyderabad, Nov. 12: The Telangana-scarred Congress today lost a three-decade-old ally with the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen withdrawing its outside support to the Andhra Pradesh government, accusing it of being anti-Muslim and drawing a "Babri Masjid" parallel.
The party's seven MLAs do matter for the Congress, whose 155 members in a House of 294 give it a margin of just seven over the majority mark. Besides, some 60-odd ruling party MLAs' allegiance is suspect, their loyalties seemingly lying more with the Telangana statehood cause or with the jailed YSR Congress chief, Jaganmohan Reddy.
Owaisi is close to Jagan and is expected to tie up with his party, which has 17 MLAs and could be a contender for power in the 2014 state elections. Already three Congress MLAs have switched loyalties to Jagan but are yet to be disqualified by the Speaker.
The Majlis has also withdrawn its outside support to the UPA government at the Centre but this will not make much difference because it has just one MP, party president Asaduddin Owaisi.
The Congress claimed the UPA government ' earlier dumped by the Trinamul Congress and Babulal Marandi's Jharkhand outfit ' was "strong and stable" with "the support of 280-300 members" in the Lok Sabha, PTI reported.
Spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit dismissed the Majlis's charge that the Andhra government had taken a communal stand and was giving a free run to Sangh activists.
The immediate provocation for the Majlis seemed to be the erection of a canopy for Diwali celebrations ' in violation of high court orders ' at a small temple abutting one of the Charminar's southern pillars.
Sangh parivar outfits openly supported the shrine authorities' installation of the structure, to which the police turned a blind eye while arresting the seven Majlis MLAs when they protested yesterday.
"This proves the Congress government is not secular and reminds one of the Babri Masjid episode," Owaisi told reporters today.
He said the state government had been targeting Muslims under Sangh parivar pressure since former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's death in September 2009. He said the Charminar row was just the tip of the iceberg.
"Name any period since 2009, and Muslims have been attacked by the Sangh parivar and harassed by the city police," the MP said. "We shall tour the entire state to expose the Kiran Reddy government's communal nature."
Owaisi said the party had faxed to the President its letter withdrawing support to the UPA government. He did not say anything about sending a letter to the Assembly Speaker.
Nor did he say whether the Majlis would approach the high court against the state administration for contempt of court.
Andhra Pradesh High Court had last week ordered status quo at the Bhagyalakshmi temple, prohibiting any pandals/canopies or fanfare but allowing the daily puja to continue, following a public interest petition filed by Majlis supporters.
The temple is a minor one and no one remembers it celebrating Diwali ever before. But this year, trouble started brewing when some Hindu groups decorated the shrine with lights for Dussehra.
Owaisi claimed the police had connived with Hindu outfits to seal off all routes leading to Charminar yesterday morning to allow the canopy to be set up without hitches.
"It seems the Kiran Reddy government is functioning on the lines of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government," he said.
The Majlis's move may rob it of the Hyderabad mayor's post because it depends heavily on Congress support in the civic body.
A Congress minister who wouldn't be named said Owaisi's move was a pressure tactic to force the government to provide prime land for the expansion of the Majlis-run Deccan Medical College.