MUZAFFARNAGAR: Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi puffed up his chest to 56 inches, other political leaders are trying to see whether they measure up to those herculean dimensions. All-India Muslim Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) boss Asaduddin Owaisi thinks he does well enough in the body language sweepstakes.
"Chey foot do inch ka aadmi hoon. Mere se bada koi star hai kya UP elections mein?'' (I’m six feet two inches. Is there a bigger star than me in the UP elections?)” says the MP from Hyderabad, taking care to chuckle to signal that he means it in jest.
On a serious note, the 47-year-old barrister says his little party is a ''twinkle twinkle little star'' in the Uttar Pradesh political theatre but the other parties that are offering themselves to the voter are “no stars at all with no glow or shine.''
With the first phase of the UP poll over and the second slated for February 15, the MIM’s lone MP is busy in the bellwether state, trying to expand the footprint of his Hyderabad-based party, this time by trying to stitch together a coalition of Muslims and Dalits.
Under Asaduddin Owaisi, the MIM has embarked upon an audacious campaign of spreading to states adjacent to Telangana and to pockets of Muslim influence in Uttar Pradesh and even Bihar. The Dalit-Muslim Jodi has been fantasized about by other players before Owaisi but none has been able to stitch up the real deal. Not even Kanshiram, the BSP patriarch.
But then, Owaisi counters, “I will work much much harder than Kanshiram.’’
It’s a brash confidence but so it was too when boss of the one-MP party declared four years ago that he saw green pastures in Karnataka, Maharashtra, UP, and Bihar. It seemed like an optimist’s pipedream then, but the MIM, as it is better known in Hyderabad, did prove a point by winning seats in municipalities and even the legislature of Maharashtra. Now contesting 35 seats in UP, Asaduddin Owaisi is busily travelling about Uttar Pradesh in his pursuit of wider relevance for his little party. In an exclusive interview with New Indian Express, Asaduddin Owaisi opens up on his plans.
MIM is making its debut in UP. Where does MIM stand in these elections?
This is the first time we are fighting an election in this state. But we are getting a good response. MIM can emerged as a strong alternate political force in UP.
This time around, who do you think Muslims in UP will vote for?
Unfortunately, the Muslim community is addressed only during the elections. Every political party and media analyst only discusses which way the 19 per cent Muslim population in UP will vote. Nobody discusses which way Brahmins, Thakurs or Kushwahas will vote. It’s become a habit for these so-called secular parties. Muslims like to vote for their overall development. They voted for the Samajwadi Party in 2012 and what did they get?
Some Muslim leaders accuse your party of being a BJP agent out to divide the Muslim vote? In fact, some leaders in eastern and western UP say “MIM khali vote katwane ke liye election ladta hai’’?
People are entitled to their opinion. I don’t agree. To all those who say that, I want to ask why there is not a single Muslim MP from this state? Samajwadi Party can have five MPs from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family but not one Muslim. Let them say anything, I will continue to do my work for Muslims and weaker and backward sections.
What is your take on the UP ke Ladke campaign about Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi?
Let’s talk about the Muzaffarnagar riots. Seven Muslim women were raped. Chargesheets have been filed but not a single person has been convicted. Rapes have increased manifold in UP. Now, look at Akhilesh Yadav’s priorities. In the Saifai zoo, six lions died. To treat the remaining lions, doctors from UK were called. Lions were getting RO purified water. Go to Purvanchal. Children are dying due to water-borne diseases but Akhilesh Yadav spends crores on lions and providing them safe drinking water.
The priorities of the SP government are clearly misplaced. Recently, even Amnesty International castigated the SP government for the Muzaffarnagar riots. What happened to the promise of reservation for Muslims? Muslims accepted Mulayam, Akhilesh and Rajiv Gandhi as their leaders but they betrayed the community and that’s why MIM had to enter the fray. As per the data, only 5 per cent of Muslims get employment here, but there is about 50 per cent vacancy in the police department. The BJP, both SP and BJP are two sides of the same coin on this.
Is it true that you tried to have an alliance with BSP but Mayawati was not interested.
No, no. That’s not correct.
Talking of Kairana and the issue of Hindu exodus, recently BJP MP Yogi Adityanath said Kairana will not be allowed to be turn into another Kashmir. Your take on this?
Firstly, the BJP should realize that Kashmir has been turned into hell by them as they are in power there along with Mehbooba Mufti. Because of their misgovernance, the situation in Kashmir has become worse. They are simply playing politics in Kairana and the electorate will teach them a lesson. People of Kairana want to earn their livelihood and are therefore going to other places. What can they do, SP promises schools, jobs, infrastructure but not a single promise was kept.
Is notebandi helping BJP or harming it?
Notebandi is definitely a major issue in this election which will decide the people’s vote. The decision was taken in haste and caused havoc to the people.
What are your predictions, who will form the government in UP?
I’m not a soothsayer. But yes, MIM is the ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ in UP while other parties are stars without glow or shine. As far as we are concerned, this is our debut here and we are working hard.
Unlike other parties, you have no stars to campaign for the MIM
Chey foot two inch ka admi, mere se badke koi star hai kya?