How do you read this poll verdict?
The verdict of the people has to be respected. This is a victory of the BJP, but the way in which it was attained is detrimental to the idea of a composite India. The BJP’s success is based primarily on two factors. First, they have managed to appropriate nationalism and the opposition has not been able to counter this strategy. Second, they have promoted an aggressive Hindu identity because of which issues like rising unemployment and agrarian distress have not resonated in these elections. The opposition has been harping on EVM rigging. I believe by doing so they are barking up the wrong tree. What has happened in reality is the rigging of the Hindu mind, which they failed to notice and counter.
Why do you think the Congress was rejected by the electorate?
I generally refrain from commenting on internal issues of political parties. But the Congress really needs to introspect. Of the 180-plus seats in which the Congress was in direct contest with the BJP, it lost more than 170. In spite of being in power in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the party’s performance was abysmal.
After losing, the party blames everyone including me for splitting secular votes but it fails to introspect. Who has stopped them from joining hands with other parties?
In Maharashtra, I had openly asked the Congress to have an alliance with Prakash Ambedkar. They refused. They refuse to give tickets to Muslim candidates. They have no qualms about using soft Hindutva.
Even when they use soft Hindutva, they lose. They refuse to speak on issues that affect minorities and yet expect the community to vote for them.
With the dominance of BJP in the country’s political scene, are you willing to ally with the Congress in the near future?
There is no question of us allying with the Congress. Just yesterday Ashok Chavan called us names. Why would we even think of allying with that party? They have a mindset that Muslims should vote for them but not ask for their rights. For years they have refrained from giving tickets to Muslim candidates, hiding behind the pretence that it causes polarisation. The success of our candidate Imtiyaz Jaleel in Aurangabad is a fitting reply to such parties who take the community for granted.
The BJP’s strong showing is deemed to be a victory of majoritanism. How do you think this will affect the Muslim community?
This victory will lead to further political marginalisation of Muslims. I don’t think mob lynching and similar killings are going to stop in the immediate future. An atmosphere has been created where a terror accused walking into Parliament is deemed to be completely acceptable. However, I promise that we will not back down. I have been asking the Muslim community and other deprived sections to be assertive, both politically and socially, of their rights and increase their political participation.During the first Suez crisis Clement Atlee had said “What a time to fight back”. This is what we will do. We will fight back to save India’s composite culture and Dr Ambedkar’s Constitution.
How do you rate your electoral performance in Maharashtra? How many seats are you planning to contest in the upcoming Assembly elections?
We have done well in Maharashtra under the leadership of my elder brother Prakash Ambedkar. A lot of our candidates have polled over 1 lakh votes. We are in Maharashtra for the long haul and will be fighting Assembly elections with all our strength. It will be a bit premature for me to say how many seats we will contest, as a lot will be decided by Prakash Ambedkar. However, one thing is for sure, we will fight with all our might and play a role in framing the political narrative in the state.