In what may give jitters to an already unrestful ‘secular camp’ that is crying hoarse about the party’s electoral debut in Bihar assembly elections, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi plans to further expand his footprint in other states including West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
Under attack for allegedly causing a split in ‘secular’ votes, Owaisi slammed his critics for their failure to understand the “New India” in which people have aspirations regardless of their religion or caste.
“I am being accused of helping the BJP! As a matter of fact, I might be able to stop them (BJP). If I don’t contest, will you (Congress and its allies) stop them? The Congress lost to the BJP in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. Was I contesting there? Why are you blaming me? This mindset is full of arrogance,” Owaisi said in a telephonic interview to HT.
“What have these parties, be it the Congress or the RJD that ruled Bihar, done for Muslims? You read Sachar Committee report. You read the baseline survey of minority concentration districts in 2008. Where is the development? You (ruling parties) are failing on all parameters. It is convenient to blame me,” said the 46-year-old Hyderabad MP, a barrister by training from London’s Lincoln’s Inn.
Owaisi said that he decided to enter the electoral fray in Bihar following his interactions with the youth from Seemanchal region of Bihar who worked at construction sites in Hyderabad. They wanted him to “raise his voice” about their plight back home due to the indifference of successive governments. He dismissed his political rivals’ allegations that the AIMIM’s decision to contest in Muslim-dominated Seemanchal region comprising four districts of Purnia, Katihar, Araria and Kishanganj would split the so-called secular vote bank.
“Why is this question not being asked to left parties or Lalu Yadav’s samadhi (Mulayam Singh Yadav who broke his alliance with Lalu and Nitish Kumar)? Why am I being singled out? Every political party wants to expand. My role is limited to Seemanchal area. Let’s assume we contest all 24 seats in that area, you are still left with 219 seats.”
“Every Indian, regardless of his religion or caste, has some aspirations. It’s New India, which these political parties are not realizing. Unlike other parties, we don’t treat Muslims or anyone as a vote bank and make them political hostages. If somebody says I am secular only when I accept their patronage, I can’t accept it. Why shouldn’t I contest? How can you have a two-party system in a country with so much heterogeneity? If my party wants to expand, it will only strengthen democracy.”
Asked about his future plans, Owaisi said the AIMIM will “definitely contest” in Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017. The party is weighing its options in West Bengal that, along with Assam and three other states, will go to polls in April next year. “But, we will tell you about West Bengal later.” The AIMIM does not plan to contest in Assam elections but “we will stand by Badruddin Ajmal (of the All India United Democratic Front) if he needs our help”.