In an interview with The Indian Express, president of All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaisi speaks about the 2019 Lok Sabha results, the status of Muslims in Indian polity and the way forward for the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) in Maharashtra.
How do you read this 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 (the BJP) 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 about 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 has been rejected by the electorate?
I generally refrain from commenting on the internal issues of political parties. But the Congress really needs to introspect. Of the over 180 plus seats in which the Congress was in direct contest with the BJP, it has lost over 170 of these seats. In spite of being in power in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the party’s performance has been abysmal. After losing, the party blames everyone, including me, for splitting secular votes, but it fails to introspects. Who has stopped them from joining hands with other parties. In Maharashtra, I had openly asked them (Congress) to have an alliance with Prakash Ambedkar. They refused. They refused to give tickets to Muslim candidates. They have no qualms of using soft Hindutva. But even when they use soft Hindutva they lose. They refuse to speak on issues that affect minorities but expect Muslims to vote for them.
With the dominance of the 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 will 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 pretense that it causes polarisation. The success of our candidate Imtiyaz Jaleel on Aurangabad seat is a fitting reply to such parties who take the community for granted.
The strong showing of the BJP is deemed to be a victory of majoritanism. How do you think this will affect the Muslim community?
This victory is going to lead to the further political marginalisation of the 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 to increase their political participation.
How do you rate your electoral performance in Maharashtra. How many seats are you planning to contest on 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 one lakh votes in various constituencies. We are here in Maharashtra for a 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 on in Maharashtra, as a lot will be decided by Prakash Ambedkar.