The Andhra Pradesh government seems to have cut Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi more than a little slack after he made a venomous communal speech on December 22, 2012. After a great deal of inexplicable dithering, the Andhra police have finally arrested the MLA on charges of promoting enmity among different groups, one of several against him. But, during this time, the errant MLA was able to travel to London for treatment and on his return pleaded his inability to appear before the police on grounds of ill-health.
This is not the first time that Mr Owaisi has made inflammatory speeches which have been communal in nature. The delay in arresting him has given Mr Owaisi an image of someone whom the powers that be are afraid to take on. The political reluctance to bring Mr Owaisi to book has been commented on unfavourably by political opponents within the BJP and rightly so. The MIM was once an ally of the Congress but it withdrew support late last year. The Kiran Kumar Reddy government is not in any immediate danger from the withdrawal but the fact that the MIM may join hands with the YSR Congress Party led by Jaganmohan Reddy is giving the Congress some sleepless nights. Nevertheless, Mr Owaisi should not have been allowed to get away for one moment with the kind of vicious remarks he made. The time lapse has given him enough time to gather his lumpen supporters who have already added to tensions in the city by damaging public property. What he does not seem to understand is that the Muslims themselves increasingly want no part of his politics of hatred, barring the kind of people who seem to gravitate towards Mr Owaisi.
The message should go out loud and clear - anyone, whatever battalions he may claim to command, cannot be above the law. The MIM itself should have come out strongly in condemnation of Mr Owaisi's remarks. This would have been in keeping with the democratic credentials the party purports to have. If his own party is intimidated into silence by Mr Owaisi, the law-enforcement machinery certainly cannot be. Its next test will be the ability to keep law and order under control while Mr Owaisi is in custody.