Asaduddin Owaisi, leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), and member of Parliament representing Hyderabad in the Lok Sabha, has said the party was planning to field at least 100 candidates in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due next year. He starts his three-day campaign in central UP from Ayodhya on Tuesday. Owaisi said he is not averse to pursuing identity politics to develop “genuine leadership” among the Muslims. “If Akhilesh Yadav represents the Yadav community, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath represents the Thakurs, how long will Muslims continue to just associate themselves with one party or the other” he asked.
Why is it that you have decided to start your campaign from Ayodhya?
This is not my first trip to UP. I have been coming here even before Covid. Also, let me make it clear, I will be in central UP for three days. I’m going to Rudauli which is a town in what was earlier called Faizabad district. And Rudauli is associated with our freedom movement. Ashfaqullah Khan, the Kakori martyr, who laid down his life for the country was hanged in Faizabad Jail by the British. Why do people bring a communal angle to my visit?
What is it that you offer to the people of UP?
We offer genuine political leadership. We want leadership that is representative of the community, which works for the development of the constituency it represents. There is no such leadership in the Muslims. Every class has its own leader while Muslims are only being made associates. If Akhilesh Yadav represents Yadavs, current chief minister Yogi Adityanath represents Thakurs, every sub-caste has a leader, why not Muslims? We want hissedari.
So, you want to pursue identity politics amongst Muslims?
What is wrong with that. Everyone is doing it, so why single us out for that. Akhilesh Yadav, BSP; or why did Prime Minister make so many minsters from the backward community. Anupriya Patel is a Kurmi leader, Agra MP SP Singh Baghel was again elevated for political reasons. You are working to mobilize voters by reaching out to caste and caste leaders. And here is the Muslim community which has been voting for everyone else but has no leader of its own.
But there are parties that claim to represent minorities in equal measure — from SP to Congress to BSP?
Except in very few seats, why is it that Muslim candidates are winning elections in constituencies which have a very high minority population. Except for Rampur or perhaps Ghazipur, the other Muslim MPs are from seats that have enough minority population to elect them on their own. If Akhilesh Yadav, with an 11 percent Yadav population in UP, can become chief minister, why not a Muslim? The Muslim community constitutes 19 percent of the state population.
You are being accused of blatantly following a communal line, and this some parties claim is helping BJP?
At least 37 percent of those killed in encounters in UP are from the Muslim community. When two judgments in the Babri Masjid case were delivered, everyone fell silent. 60 percent of the drop out at senior secondary level in UP are from the minority community. Only 2 percent of the total graduates are Muslims. We feel the political disempowerment of Muslims is taking its toll on the other aspects of the social and economic life of the community.