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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Asaduddin Owaisi hits back at Mamata Banerjee over ‘extremism’ jibe

Addressing an event in Cooch Behar on Monday, Banerjee asked people to refrain from listening to “minority extremists” who have their base in Hyderabad.

kolkata Updated: Nov 20, 2019 02:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee addresses party’s workers in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal on Monday.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee addresses party’s workers in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal on Monday.(PTI Photo)
         

A day after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s remarks on “minority extremists” stirred a row, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi hit back on Tuesday, accusing Trinamool Congress leader of “dividing communities”.

Addressing an event in Cooch Behar on Monday, Banerjee asked people to refrain from listening to “minority extremists” who have their base in Hyderabad. “There are some extremists among the minorities. They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them. Don’t trust these forces,” she said.

Soon after, AIMIM chief Owaisi, a Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, took to Twitter to criticise Banerjee. “It’s not religious extremism to say that Bengal’s Muslims have one of the worst human development indicators of any minority,” he posted.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday, Owaisi said: “We are fighting for justice. If the chief minister of Bengal sees extremism in this work, we have nothing to say. Extremism is in the fact that in her state she let the Bharatiya Janata Party win 18 (Lok Sabha) seats. Extremism is that you, by abusing me, are insulting the Muslims of the state. Cent per cent of them voted for you and yet you failed to save Bengal from BJP.”

“Why are the social, educational and economic indicators of Muslims so poor in Bengal? We appeal to the Bengal chief minister with humility to give up raising hands in the posture of dua (prayer) or hosting Iftars … Muslims don’t need these. Work on the ground for their empowerment. What value does our votes have? Where is the leadership? You are the leader. You are the chief minister. But you did nothing!.” he added.

Clarifying Banerjee’s remarks, a senior Trinamool Congress leader, who did not wish to be named, said, “In a clear bid to stop polarization of Hindu votes, she in recent days has brought to the forefront urban development minister Firhad Hakim, whose mother is a Hindu and who himself takes part in Hindu festivals, and Lok Sabha MP Nusrat Jahan, who is married to a Jain.”

According to political analysts, the Bengal chief minister is also afraid of Owaisi, who is seeking to expand his party’s realm of influence beyond Hyderabad to other states, eating into its Muslim vote bank.

“On the one hand, she wants to increase her share of Hindu votes, and on the other hand, she wants to keep others from eating into her Muslim vote bank. Though AIMIM has had no noticeable presence in Bengal, its expansion drive in eastern India must have panicked Banerjee as she is wholly depending on Muslim votes to return to power,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency College.

For years, the AIMIM’s influence was limited to the old Hyderabad city before it forayed into Maharashtra and two of its candidates won the assembly elections from there in 2014.

The party now has a Lok Sabha member from Maharashtra and it recently pocketed the Muslim dominated Kishanganj seat in Bihar in a bypoll to make its maiden entry into the state assembly.

(With agency inputs)