March 14, 2019 2:53:21 am
Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi talks to The Indian Express on why his party wants an alliance with the Congress, why he wants to be a candidate from Maharashtra and not UP. Excerpts:
How successful are your talks with the Congress and NCP for a tie-up in the state?
We feel Congress does not want to ally with us. The SP wants to form a coalition so that our vote bank combines with that of the Congress. We need to see what alliance is profitable. In Uttar Pradesh, the SP and BSP coalition can defeat the BJP. In Maharashtra, the Congress, NCP, SP and smaller secular parties can together defeat the BJP. We need to ensure that secular votes are not split.
I called for a meeting with Muslim clerics and leaders to discuss the way forward. They will put pressure on the Congress. But the SP can go ahead and contest if people support us.
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Where is mediation stalling? Did you put in efforts to reach out?
We want to contest from Bhiwandi, if possible. Samajwadi Party offered options of five constituencies where it has a stronghold — Mumbai South, Mumbai South Central, Bhiwandi, Mumbai North West and Mumbai North Central. Congress is unwilling to give us even a single seat from there. They offered Mumbai North and Jalna, but we are not keen to contest from those seats. I met Sharad Pawar at his home. He had promised to talk to Rahul Gandhi in the first week of January. Months have passed, but no response has come. The question is just of one seat.
What issues are SP focussing on?
Our main focus is to provide justice to the last man possible. Minorities must feel secure, get employment and reservation. Children must get basic education. The present health infrastructure is poor, work is needed there. A common man wants all these things first. What is also important is to provide each citizen with respect, irrespective of their religion. A person must not be considered inferior because he is a Muslim.
Will you be contesting?
I was given a seat in UP, but I refused. I want to work and fight for the people in Mumbai. I will not contest. In my view, it is difficult for a Muslim candidate to win a seat in Maharashtra, where there is a Hindu majority.
The issue of beef ban in Maharashtra has not found resonance in any political dialogue. Is it a non-issue this election?
It is still an issue. The BJP is not serious about banning cow slaughter. In the Northeast, where the BJP formed government in Mizoram, its own home minister, during his visit, said people are free to eat whatever they want. In Goa, beef is easily available. But in other states, people are dying in the name of beef. It is not only an issue for Muslims, but those engaged in beef trade.
The present economic condition of India is poor. The Congress is not seriously tackling these issues. It feels problems of communalism will help them gain favour.
The BJP and Shiv Sena have managed to form alliance despite strains. Do they form a formidable team?
When I heard of the alliance, I thought Uddhav Thackeray has spoilt Balasahebji Thackeray’s name. Balasaheb never went to Delhi or to any party to form an alliance, politicians would visit him. He never bent before any politician. Uddhav ji thook kar chaat rahe hai (Uddhav ji is bending before the BJP after accusing them multiple times).
Do you think the Balakot airstrike changes the political situation?
It will be clear very soon that the BJP tried to save its face through Balakot strikes. It was important for them to retaliate after Pulwama attack to gain public favour. The Indian Air Force claims they have hit the assigned target. But how many people have died in that strike is still unknown. For me, not even a single crow has died. Amit Shah claims 250 people died. His statement is for political gains. Despite intelligence reports, we could not prevent Pulwama attack. The responsibility of that attack is also on BJP.
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