Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections | AIADMK and DMK are equally opportunistic: Owaisi

The All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM) electoral foray into Tamil Nadu, in an alliance with T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s AMMK has spawned criticism that its leader Asaduddin Owaisi is subverting the anti-BJP coalition as a Trojan horse. In an interview, he denies the charge and argues why he believes the DMK practices “soft-Hindutva”. Edited excerpts:

What is the goal of your alliance?

It has many objectives but the important one is that the people of Tamil Nadu need, require and want a third political alliance — traditionally it has been a DMK-led front and an AIADMK one. Now, there is space for a third front to occupy the political vacuum that has been created.

Mr. Dhinakaran had earlier said that he was open to aligning with the AIADMK or the BJP to keep the DMK out of power if his leadership was acceptable to the parties. But do you believe that your idea of alliance is aligned with that of the AMMK leader?

When I met Mr. Dhinakaran, I asked him point blank if he was going to support the BJP. He told me, “Mr. Owaisi, I promise you we will not support the BJP. I am running a party and I want it to go ahead, I cannot support or align with the BJP because my political journey has to go very far.” Those were his actual words.

So who is your greater foe — the BJP, and by extension the AIADMK, or the DMK because of your alliance with the AMMK?

As far as the DMK or the AIADMK is concerned, they have aligned and shared power with the BJP. So no one is a great saint. Both are equally opportunistic and communal. Moreover, the Congress has supported the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. What does that say about their grand stand on secularism? And then, the same Congress supported the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act (UAPA), brought by Amit Shah in July 2019 in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha — the amendments which made the Act more draconian and were used to incarcerate writers and activists. What does that say about the Congress and the DMK?

You are seen as a Trojan horse undermining and subverting an anti-BJP secular alliance everywhere, and now in Tamil Nadu as well…

Yeah, I know. How did [Congress leader] Rahul Gandhi lose Amethi? Because of a Trojan horse? I was not even there. And If I was a Trojan horse, why did the DMK offer to ally with me, send their minority wing president [Dr. Mastan] to my house in Hyderabad to invite me for their minority convention in Chennai and after landing in Chennai, completely deny that, despite the visuals of the meeting? They even offered me a seat, and later backtracked.

That is why I say that Muslims require an independent political voice. This is a classic example where the minority wing president of the DMK has no value in his own party.

That shows your disposition towards Muslims, where you don’t support your own minority wing president.

The DMK-led alliance has pitched the election as an existential threat to the ideology of Periyar and not just as a battle for power. Progressive forces are looking wearily at the steady inroads made by the BJP. Where do you figure in this?

The DMK is talking ‘soft Hindutva’. Look at its manifesto, promising ₹1,000 crore to temples and funds for pilgrimage. Is this paying homage to Periyar? Did anyone ever imagine that this would be talked of in Tamil Nadu?

And what progressive forces? How is it that they were not able to stop the BJP at the national level and even let it win 300-odd seats? The Congress could not win in several north Indian States and I did not contest there. They do not have the capability and have compromised themselves to become more BJP than the original BJP itself. When I stand up and put up a candidate, does that make me backward?

How would you respond to the accusation of splitting votes?

This question is problematic. In a democracy, there will be candidates, unless you want a Kim Jong system. Am I a slave to the parties that I cannot contest elections?

And then you lose Bihar. I have given empirical evidence that my contesting does not help the BJP. Is this turning into a feudal system where one must not contest so that votes do not get divided? It is the people’s power to decide whether they want to vote for X or Y party. But how is it that I am asked why I am contesting? If you contest, they will lose or they will win. If I contest, you should be happy that I am strengthening India’s democracy, bringing in more youth into the democratic process.

What should I do? Should I only vote for you; I should not take votes and be subservient to you? Yes, I want my voice to be heard; I want to create a leadership of young Muslims, and this should be celebrated.

How do you see the BJP’s Tamil Nadu manifesto?

Tamil Nadu already had a cow slaughter ban in 1976. But I want to ask why the AIADMK and the DMK have not rubbished in categorical terms the cow slaughter ban of the BJP. Why are the two parties silent on this?

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 1:55:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tamil-nadu-assembly/aiadmk-and-dmk-are-equally-opportunistic-owaisi/article34165069.ece

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