Asaduddin Owaisi: Narendra Modi won't retire, he has to be defeated politically | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Asaduddin Owaisi: Narendra Modi won't retire, he has to be defeated politically

ByBinoy Prabhakar
May 13, 2024 06:23 PM IST

Asaduddin Owaisi interview: AIMIM leader on Prime Minister Modi’s retirement, the PM’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, INDIA alliance and other topics.

Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of AIMIM, often described as the political face of Muslims in India, is at a pivotal moment in his career. Owaisi is a four-time MP and is again contesting in the Hyderabad constituency in the fourth phase of the elections due on May 13. His party has cobbled together a grouping of Muslims, backward classes and other minorities. This grouping is putting up a spirited fight against the BJP-led NDA, but is not part of the opposition INDIA alliance. Is that a smart move? A small party up against a big nationalist coalition. We caught up with Owaisi to ask about his party’s prospects, the pressing issues in this election and the anti-Muslim rhetoric by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among other topics. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.(PTI FILE)
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.(PTI FILE)

You are contesting 11 seats in Bihar, 20 in UP, five in Maharashtra … all seats with a significant Muslim presence. How do you see AIMIM faring in this year’s general elections?

So in Uttar Pradesh, we are part of PDM Nyay Morcha, which is a special Dalit and Muslim grouping, and headed by Pallavi Patel of Apna Dal (Kamerawadi). In Bihar, as you rightly said, we're contesting but you have to add Jharkhand also, where we will contest in probably one or two seats. We're very confident that our party president of Bihar and MLA, Mr. Akhtar Akhtarul Iman will win the election. Aurangabad and Hyderabad go to the polls on May 13 and we are confident that we will continue our winning spree. In the remaining Parliament segments of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, I will campaign and try our level best to ensure that our candidates win. Follow live updates on Lok Sabha elections 2024

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Watch: The Asaduddin Owaisi interview: AIMIM leader on PM’s retirement, INDIA alliance and when India will get a Muslim prime minister.

We’ve completed three phases of a long election. What do you think are the big themes this time?

What we hear from the ground … I'm not a data cruncher, but people are voting on the lines of caste, people are voting because of lack of employment opportunities and price rise. Of course, there are other reasons also. These are the three-four important issues and also wherever minorities are there, they feel that BJP has completely made them invisible. This so- called secular INDIA alliance is very reluctant to give tickets to the Muslim minority. The classic examples are in Maharashtra, which has 48 Lok Sabha seats. Not a single Muslim has been made a candidate. That has been the case in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, New Delhi. And this is a huge cause of concern because in a representative form of democracy, if Muslims are not even being made candidates to contest elections, then of course, their representation in the lower house of the parliament will definitely come down. Will that be representing the pluralism and diversity of this country? I don't think so. This is a very serious thing. And unfortunately, the secular parties or the so-called secular parties are trying to ape the BJP by telling the Muslim minorities that you just have to vote and go back and sit and relax in your home.

Follow full coverage of Lok Sabha elections 2024

I wanted to ask you about that particularly. You've decided not to ally with the INDIA alliance …

That is not the case. Our Maharashtra president Imtiyaz Jaleel publicly said thrice that let us talk to make AIMIM become a part of the INDIA alliance. Now, the other side has not have not responded at all. For us, it is not the end of the world if one does not want to have an alliance with us. We will continue our political journey irrespective of whether alliances have happened. We have an alliance in Uttar Pradesh and we have alliances in other places also.

Isn’t fighting alone fraught with challenges? You're fighting against such a big party as the BJP …

Doesn’t matter. Life itself is a challenge. And there's no fun in life without a challenge. We will ensure that we'll work hard and if people decide, inshallah, we'll win. If not, we'll be laying a strong foundation for the future for our party.

But apart from the challenge of going it alone, isn't it helping the BJP in some way? Because you're going to take away votes that would go to an anti-BJP party.

The problem with the media and the so-called secular parties is that they are very Hindu centric. Now, this question is not put to those so- called secular parties that contested in about 190 seats. There, there was a direct contest between the Congress and BJP, and the Congress could only win 16 seats. I was not present in those seats. Would the media or these parties have the intellectual honesty to say that we lost because of Hindu votes? Neither you nor they will say that. But when a person like me or my party come forward and say we want our share, we hear immediately that: “Oh, no, you're helping BJP.” I fail to understand this kind of hypocrisy. So, it is the other way around. You go and have an alliance with (Maharashtra Shiv Sena leader) Uddhav Thackeray and you call him secular because it suits you … because you want to be in power. Please tell me how is Thackeray or Shiv Sena secular when their role has been documented in the Sri Krishna commission report (on 1992 Mumbai riots). When Thackeray as a part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra says in the Assembly that his party workers had demolished Babri Masjid, the Congress and Rashtrawadi Congress ministers are sitting with him. He openly says they espouse Hindutva. Does’t Hindutva contradict Indian nationalism? So this question itself is wrong. The shoe is on the other side. You should ask them why is it that you're losing. How did you lose Chhattisgarh? You lost Madhya Pradesh. You lost Rajasthan. Akhilesh Yadav (of Samajwadi Party in UP) loses 2014, 2017, 2019, 2022— four elections! No one points fingers at him.

All pollsters are saying Prime Minister Modi is returning for a third term. Do you agree with that assessment?

I am not a pollster. Neither I'm an astrologer or a philosopher. I'm a politician, working hard to ensure that my party candidates win. Wherever possible, we have given a call, for example, in Telangana where there are 17 seats. In Hyderabad, please vote for MIM and the remaining 16 Lok Sabha seats of Telangana, defeat BJP. Where we are contesting alone or as part of an alliance, we’re asking people to vote for us. Where we are not, we are openly saying please defeat BJP.

The Prime Minister has attacked Muslims in his speeches. Were you surprised by those remarks?

No, I'm not at all surprised. Because that is his original DNA. That's his original language. That's his originality—which is that they hate Muslims. That is the real Hindutva ideology. The Prime Minister has been consistently saying this from 2002, which made him the prime minister of this great nation twice, unfortunately. Anyway, people have decided. So he's gone back on his original agenda of spewing venom, creating divisions, creating suspicion about Muslims … saying Muslim women give birth to more children, which is all rubbish and nonsense. A pack of lies. He has forgotten G20, Chandrayaan, 5 trillion economy, permanent Security Council seat, Vishwaguru, Viskit Bharat … all have gone to the dustbin. They have come back to the agenda that they started, which they will continue into the future.

Have you thought about the BJP after Mr. Modi? He is 73. Who could be his successor?

So you're assuming Modi will leave after 75, is it? I don't think so. Modi will not leave. Modi will have to be defeated politically. This is my thinking.

Rahul Gandhi was asked this question some years ago. It might seem very preposterous to talk about it in the current circumstances … when do you think India will get a Muslim Prime Minister?

Inshallah, it will be in the form of a woman wearing a hijab and heading this great nation. The time will come. Maybe I will not be alive to see that day, but it will happen inshallah.

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