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Telangana Elections 2023 | Interview

Dalits, STs, and minorities require a third political force to prosper: Asaduddin Owaisi

The AIMIM president says Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is as vindictive as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and accuses the Congress of practising Hindutva in Chhattisgarh; calls for quota for Muslim and OBC women

November 10, 2023 09:24 pm | Updated November 11, 2023 11:27 am IST - HYDERABAD

File photo of Asaduddin Owaisi.

File photo of Asaduddin Owaisi. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president and Hyderabad MP, Asaduddin Owaisi, speaks about his support for the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in the Telangana Assembly election, the hypocrisy of the Congress, why he considers Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as vindictive as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and how regional parties can strengthen marginalised communities.

Edited excerpts:

How did your support for the BRS take shape?

 I am of the opinion that Dalits, STs, and minorities require a third political force [referring to the Bharat Rashtra Samithi], apart from these two national parties [Congress and BJP]. These communities have prospered in the presence of a third force. Communal amity is strengthened. Take for example the case where a uniformed man on board a train killed three people in a terrorist act. One of the victims was from Hyderabad. Our MLA went to Mumbai and brought back his body. AIMIM MLAs demanded ex gratia and employment for the wife of the deceased. The government immediately released money, gave a two BHK apartment, and an appointment letter [for a job].  The Rajasthan and Bihar governments gave nothing to the other two victims who belonged to those States. I have got a study done by experts that showed that 60% of Muslim children are anaemic in Rajasthan. Few are in middle school. [Samajwadi Party chief] Akhilesh Yadav has lost the legacy of his father. In Chhattisgarh, they [Congress] are practising Hindutva. No one blames them. Mr. Rahul Gandhi is happy with Hindutva.

But you had openly supported the Congress in the past, and yet you have been criticising Rahul Gandhi.

AIMIM was supporting UPA [United Progressive Alliance], not Congress. You must remember that we opposed bifurcation [of Andhra Pradesh]. I opposed this in Parliament, and said it should be done in a proper way. He [Rahul Gandhi] talks about [us] taking money. But he will not use such language for Mr. [Jyotiraditya] Scindia, with whom he went to the Doon School, or against Jitin Prasada. Why is he focused on money so much? There are political differences. So, in my view, he is as vindictive as Mr. Narendra Modi. Because both of them don’t tolerate dissent. I won’t bow my head before Badshah Salamat. For him, it is like what [former U.S. President] George Bush used to say after 9/11: “Either you are with us, or with them”. When Uddhav Thackeray said in the Assembly that we are proud Shiv Sainiks who demolished Babri, and brought back bricks, Ashok Chavan and Sharad Pawar were just sitting there. BJP is the notary shop of nationalism, and Congress is the notary shop of secularism. I have opposed BJP, I will oppose him [Mr. Gandhi] also.

Why hasn’t the AIMIM fielded a woman candidate in the Telangana Assembly election? Why did you oppose the women’s reservation Bill?

 I am not at all against women contesting elections. We are yet to find a strong candidate, not in the gender perspective but in an overall manner, and are grooming for politics seven or eight young women. We did give a woman candidate a ticket in one of the past elections, and will do so in future. As regards the Bill, I want representation of Muslim and OBC women in Parliament. Within the quota, give a quota to them. OBCs are 58% of the population, and in the past 17 Lok Sabha elections, hardly 22 Muslim women were in Parliament. The upper castes are huge in numbers. My argument is if 27% quota [for OBCs] can be given in education and employment, why not in political representation?

You have been a victim of alleged snooping. But Amnesty International states that Hyderabad is on the brink of becoming a full-surveillance city. Telangana has 360-degree profiling, database-linking by police, cordon, and searches, and Chabutra Mission, which are all linked to civil liberties.

Why just that? There is an app which records what police ACPs and Inspectors speak on the phone, that can be heard by the Commissioner. This is not on IPS officers’ phones. I cannot understand why. We need strong data protection laws. Privacy is important to me. I don’t want the Intelligence Bureau or Counter Intelligence Cell to listen to what I am talking to my children or relatives. They are wasting the country’s money on me [by snooping]. The opinion on Mission Chabutra [police action in Old City against youth found roaming at night] is divided. Some people are for it, some are against it. We will have to discuss this.

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