In an interview with CNN-News18 correspondent Swastika Das, AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) president Asaduddin Owaisi talks about his road map for 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections where he is contesting 100 seats, the setback in Bengal assembly polls and the so-called ‘BJP’s B-Team’ tag.
What makes you confident of AIMIM’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh?
In the last five years, our party members have really worked hard in strengthening the organisation, in making our presence felt politically and socially. In the recently held Zilla Parishad elections, our performance was satisfactory. Lastly, we are also part of Bhagyadari Sankalp Morcha of Om Prakash Rajbhar, so if you compare our performance five years ago, then I would definitely say there is a lot of improvement, confidence and traction on the ground.
After Bihar’s success, you contested Bengal with seven seats and couldn’t make an impression there. What makes you think that in Uttar Pradesh the same ‘outsider tag’ will not be raked up once again? In Bengal, a majority of Muslims voted for the Trinamool Congress once again.
Bengal was what for us when we first contested Bihar. So, we knew fully well that this time around, it would be very difficult for us to win an assembly seat there, but to establish a political party, to send a message to the people that we are very serious in strengthening our party in that particular state, we had to contest the election. We didn’t win, you are right, but that will not be the case five years from now when elections will be held in West Bengal. After we lost the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, we fared well in the municipal and Zila Parishad polls. We are confident that our performance in the 2022 UP polls will be much better.
As far as the allegation of being an outsider is concerned, there will be no insider left, everybody will be an outsider then.
What went wrong with BSP, they had publicly announced an alliance with you?
Not at all, no one from the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) or from AIMIM had spoken to each other. Neither their MP nor an important functionary had spoken to our party president (Shaukat Ali). I don’t know how this news emanated and every political party has a right to decide what is good for them.
Any chance of forming a post-poll alliance in UP?
First, we have to fight and win the elections. We don’t know what the result will be there.
But are you keeping your options open because there was a report of a possible alliance between you and Mayawati?
No talks never happened.
Why should a Muslim in Uttar Pradesh vote for you?
Why are you confining MIM to only to a Muslim vote? MIM has a large presence among each and every caste and religion combination, whether it is OBC or Dalit Samaj. MIM has support from a cross-section of the society.
Do you think MIM is a liability on regional parties? You are often called the ‘B-Team of BJP’.
The problem with the so-called secular and liberal class is that they don’t have the intellectual honesty and guts to call out those secular parties who have lost UP to BJP, who had lost badly in the parliamentary elections to the BJP and they don’t have the honesty to call them the B-team. Since my name happens to be Asaduddin Owaisi, so they assume that they have the liberty to call names to Asaduddin Owaisi. Would they use the same language against those secular leaders who don’t have the name Asaduddin Owaisi? This in itself shows how communal, parochial their views are. They are full of arrogance because they are not able to understand why they are losing elections to the BJP. I didn’t contest Parliament elections, I didn’t contest that many seats five years ago in UP elections, but BJP won. So why aren’t these parties called B-team? I don’t give two hoots about these jokers who have no intellectual honesty to take on communal forces. Congress’s tallest leader lost from Amethi. Why didn’t you call him BJP’s B-team? Why is Asad Owaisi called BJP’s B-team? These people can’t tolerate a semblance of minority empowerment whether it is political or social, because they falsely assume that Muslims should live at the mercy of these so-called liberal people. Their whole argument is they should be allowed to lead while Muslims should be subjugated to follow them. The democracy of India allows us to create a leadership on the ground which we will keep on doing.
When are you set to hit the ground running in Uttar Pradesh?
Hum hamesha se maidan mein rehte hain, hum kahan ghar me jake baithte, kahan london chalejate (We are always in the field. We don’t sit at home.) Covid’s second wave has slowed us down. Once the restrictions are eased, I will travel to UP and kick-start MIM’s campaigning.