Is the AIMIM open to alliances for the Lok Sabha elections?
In Telangana, we will support (Chief Minister) K Chandrashekar Rao and ensure that we win all the 17 (Lok Sabha) seats. In Andhra Pradesh, we will support Jaganmohan Reddy. In Bihar, our party state president Akhtarul Iman will contest from the Kishanganj seat. In Maharashtra we are supporting Prakash Ambedkar. We will decide on Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka after discussions with the party unit.
What are you views on the bid to create a pan-India Opposition against the BJP?
We are not a part of the Mahagatbandhan. Now whether this alliance will deliver is a different matter altogether. If the contest becomes between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, which is what the RSS and Modi want, then it is not a good. It gives a huge advantage to the RSS and Modi.
What issues will the AIMIM be raising during the elections?
We will prioritise the issue of underdevelopment. If you look at the 25 most backward districts of India, nearly 10 of them are minority-dominated. This will be a poll issue for us. I also back K Chandrashekar Rao’s call for a larger debate on federalism. Why should certain subjects be on the Concurrent List when they are purely state matters? Why should someone sitting in Delhi decide on what’s good for a particular state?
What role do you see for Muslims in Indian politics?
Muslims need to understand that they do not alone carry the burden of secularism. Whenever elections are held, cries of ‘Mulk ko bachana hai, secularism ko bachana hai (Save the country, save secularism)’ are raised. This threat and dog-whistle politics has been directed at Muslims. The narrative seems to be that Muslims have been born not to do anything but to save secularism. However, this is a cross that every Indian has to bear. You can only strengthen secularism and the composite culture of this country by increasing the number of Muslim MPs in Parliament. Muslims today are only good at voting but not getting their candidates elected. Every election becomes a life-and-death situation for us, but what happens after voting? We die every day. This has to change. The concerns of only those communities who have political representation are addressed. If you do not have representation, forget about being heard.
Muslims also need to think beyond the bipolar political world of the Congress and the BJP. There is a world beyond these two political parties.
Whom do you blame for the this situation, the BJP or the Congress?
Both. Why is the NSA Act (National Security Act of 1980) slapped only on Muslims. (In Madhya Pradesh), the Act was used when Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in power. It is being applied when (Chief Minister) Kamal Nath has taken over as well. Why do you need to apply the NSA when someone is held for cow slaughter? There needs to be a 180 degree turn on how the Muslim community looks at these parties.
You have been a proponent of Dalit-Muslim unity. The BJP has spoken about Dalits not getting reservation at Aligarh Muslim University. Will such issues create a rift between the communities in the run-up to the polls?
I believe that weaker sections from throughout the country must come together. As a first step, the coming together of Muslims-SCs-OBCs will be a positive change. However, there are forces who do not want this. The Muslim community needs to have more synergy with other marginalised communities. This will have a huge impact on addressing their common problems. It is natural for parties, whom this alliance will hurt, to try and drive a wedge between them.
In Maharashtra, you have promised to keep out of the poll fray if the Congress, NCP do not give Prakash Ambedkar seats in accordance with his stature. If the Congress agrees, will the AIMIM ally with them at the national level as well?
Our alliance with Ambedkar goes beyond politics. I see him as an elder brother, a man with a vision. If the Congress shows sagacity, it will accommodate him. I will help Ambedkar sahab irrespective of the Congress. There is however no way we will have a pan-India deal with the Congress.