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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Asaduddin Owaisi interview: ‘We’ve been working for 5 yrs… while RJD, Cong, JDU sat at home’

Owaisi talks about the 'disarray' in the BJP-JD(U) and RJD-Congress alliances, why time is ripe for a new front like he promises, and the issues the AIMIM will raise in its campaign.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: October 16, 2020 1:44:50 pm
Asaduddin Owaisi, Asaduddin Owaisi interview, Asaduddin Owaisi Bihar elections, Asaduddin Owaisi Express Interview, Bihar elections 2020, RJD Congress, India news, Indian ExpressAIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi spoke to Manoj C G.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) President Asaduddin Owaisi talks about the ‘disarray’ in the BJP-JD(U) and RJD-Congress alliances, why time is ripe for a new front like he promises, and the issues the AIMIM will raise in its campaign.

The AIMIM had initially tied up with Devendra Prasad Yadav’s Samajwadi Janata Dal (Democratic). Now, the AIMIM, Samajwadi Janata Dal (Democratic), Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP and the BSP have announced an alliance. What is the idea behind its formation?

The people of Bihar need a viable alternative political platform. Also, the RJD-Congress alliance has failed and lost the confidence of the people of Bihar in dislodging or in politically defeating the JD(U) and BJP (alliance). Another important point is that the 15 years of Nitish Kumar and 15 years of RJD have not helped in the real development of Bihar. I have data which clearly show that on every parameter — social, economic, health, education — the Nitish Kumar-led government has failed. That is why all of us have come together and projected Mr Kushwaha as the chief ministerial face and Devendra Yadav as the convener.

Why do you think the RJD-Congress alliance has failed?

They have failed on the trust factor. Five years ago, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rahul Gandhi came together and said that if people vote for us, we will defeat the BJP-RSS. Now, that has not happened because (JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish) Kumar is with the BJP. And the responsibility equally lies with the Congress and RJD as well because they misled the people of Bihar… In the last Lok Sabha polls, they (the Congress) could not win a single seat apart from Kishanganj, where our candidate got close to 3 lakh votes, 3.32 lakh votes were bagged by the JD(U), and the winning candidate, who was from the Congress, won 3.6 lakh votes. Had our candidate not been there, it would have been a clean sweep for the NDA. That is why I am of the opinion that they (the Congress and RJD combine) are unable to politically take on the BJP. They lack real political and intellectual conviction.

Bihar elections 2020 Key Players

The BSP is a marginal player in Bihar. In the last Assembly election (in 2015), the AIMIM contested in six seats but failed to win any. However, later, it won the Kishanganj Assembly seat in a bypoll (in 2019). Kushwaha’s RLSP won only two seats in the Assembly polls and did not win any seat in the Lok Sabha election… Yadav’s party also met a similar fate. So what makes you think that the front can be a credible and viable alternative?

There is a political vacuum in Bihar which demands an alternative political platform. The people of Bihar… no longer have confidence in the RJD-Congress alliance. They are also tired of Nitish Kumar’s misgovernance. Yes, all of us are small players, but everything starts with a small step and then it becomes bigger. And lastly, what happened in Maharashtra should be an eye-opener for everyone. What happened post-election… no one would have imagined it, although I disagree with the Congress giving Shiv Sena a secular certificate and forming an alliance… Remember that the NDA is in disarray… the LJP is contesting independently despite sharing power in Delhi. The Congress-RJD too is in complete disarray… So the poor in Bihar require an alternative political platform and we hope to fill that vacuum.

More from Explained | Apart from NDA and Mahagathbandhan, what other alliances are in the poll fray in Bihar?

You said the NDA is in disarray. There is a perception that there is some kind of match-fixing between the BJP and LJP. What is your view?

But you will still call it disarray, isn’t it? Despite sharing power in Delhi, they’re still not able to come together for Bihar. And if what you say is right… that is also the sense on the ground… it speaks volumes about their cohesion. This doesn’t inspire confidence in the people.

People may consider your alliance as a front that will end up splitting the anti-incumbency votes, which will help the BJP and JD(U).

Am I a hostage to other political parties? I will contest because I believe in parliamentary democracy. And I want to strengthen democracy. I want to create more confidence in the youth in Indian democracy. And why have these parties arrogated this power to decide who should contest or who shouldn’t? It is shameful on their part that they are not able to defeat the BJP and because of them… their alliance broke and Nitish is in the BJP. They ally with Shiv Sena, and then they have the cheek to ask me this question… The more they talk about this, the more my resolve gets strengthened.

Bihar Elections 2020 Interviews

This is a democracy. I will contest. Whether I win or lose is a different thing. Our party has been working to build an organisation for the last five years and we were there when people needed us during and after the lockdown, and when floods happened. The RJD-Congress CM hopeful was comfortably sitting in Delhi for two-and-a-half months when nearly 28 lakh migrant labourers returned to Bihar from across the country. And the Chief Minister too had isolated himself in his home for months together.

Your party targets the Muslim votes. The RSLP focuses on Kushwaha votes. The BSP eyes the Dalit votes….

Would you ask this question to the BJP that they take upper caste votes? Would you ask the RJD and Congress about Yadav votes?… Aliens don’t vote for them, do they? And caste is a reality in India. What happened in Hathras is a bitter, crude reality. So this is a wrong question to be asked….

From Explained | How are Chirag Paswan and the LJP placed in Bihar polls?

The RJD is often asked about its MY (Muslim-Yadav) vote base and the BJP about its upper caste votes…

These are all false assumptions by the media and everyone else. Is a voter hostage to any political party? That is not the sense I get. At present, in India of 2020… how can you say about vote banks?… One works hard, convinces them (the voters) and they vote for you.

Among your alliance partners, there are some contradictions on national issues. For instance, BSP chief Mayawati had credited the Supreme Court for paving the way for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Your position on the issue is well-known. How will you address these contradictions?

There will be differences but what is the meeting point? A meeting point is to provide a viable alternative political voice. They have their stand on certain issues and they will continue to have that. So does the Congress. Kamal Nath had sent bricks (for the construction of the Ram temple), Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had tweeted in favour of it (the temple)…, the RJD didn’t open its mouth (on the issue). So these are there. Everyone has their political stand, but the common factor that has brought us together is to provide a viable alternative political platform.

So will there be a common manifesto, programme and agenda?

Mr Kushwaha and Mr Yadav will come out with a vision document very soon and they will also be talking about the important things which need to be done, and which this alliance will do.

Read | Upendra Kushwaha: The man trying hard to stay relevant

How many seats will each party contest?

Mr Kushwaha will release the complete list of seats but hopefully, we are going to contest in 18-19 Assembly seats across the state. We have given our list of seats.

Would the campaign focus on national issues or will it be limited to Bihar-specific issues?

It can be any issue provided it does not violate the model code of conduct. You have the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister talking about the construction of Ram Mandir…. He is a Chief Minister and no one talks about it. Had I said that in some election speech…, all these 9 pm nationalists would be harping on me for a whole day.

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