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Asaduddin Owaisi: Man On A Pan-India Mission
After Maharashtra assembly polls success, Asaduddin Owaisi plans to expand his party into a pan-Indian outfit
By Sowmya Aji, ET Bureau | 21 Aug, 2015
BENGALURU: From the walled city of Hyderabad to Muslim-dominated areas across the country, All India Majlise-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi is seeking to expand his party into a pan-Indian outfit. The London-educated 46-year-old lawyer is wooing the minorities unabashedly in his attempt to fill the vacuum of a Muslim-only party in the country.
The party won two of the 25 seats it contested in the Maharashtra assembly polls in 2014. In the recently held municipal elections at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, his party emerged as the runner-up, winning half the seats it contested. Now, it is readying to contest 29 seats in the Bengaluru civic body polls on August 22.
"Expansion plans of any political party are very natural. Every political party would want to expand. In a democracy that is not something very surprising," Owaisi told ET in an exclusive interview.
Although the name of his party translates into All India Council of Union of Muslims, Owaisi said the Muslim-only perception is wrong. "Mine is not a Muslim party. That is completely wrong and a misinformation campaign. I have fielded non-Muslim candidates everywhere, including Dalits and OBCs," he said. Three of the party's mayors in Hyderabad were Hindu.
Owaisi rubbished the Congress' claim that his party was a BJP prop set up to cut into secular votes across the country.
The argument that his party has weakened secularism is pure arrogance on Congress' part, he said. "It is the Muslims who supported them (Congress) earlier. We lost our masjid, we lost our businesses and homes in communal riots... What are they talking about? Only if we fight under their umbrella can we fight the RSS and the BJP?" he said. "What have they done to stop the RSS and the BJP? How did Modi get 280 seats in 2014? They have lost every election since 2014. Where was Asaduddin Owaisi in all those elections?"
Owaisi, who has represented Hyderabad in Lok Sabha since 2004, has however not yet made up his mind on contesting the upcoming assembly elections in Bihar. "We have not taken a decision on Bihar, we will let you know as soon as we decide," he said.
He has taken the party from being just Hyderabad-based (the current Greater Hyderabad mayor is also from his party) to other municipalities in Telangana. His party candidates have even opened an account in Andhra Pradesh recently, by winning in the Adoni municipality of Kurnool district. The party currently has local body representatives in Karnataka's Bidar and Basavakalyan and Maharashtra's Nanded-Waghela and Aurangabad, and Owaisi is now eyeing Bengaluru. The Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka, however, has not allowed him to address any public meetings, conduct a padayatra or campaign for his candidates.
"In Bengaluru and Uttar Pradesh, I have been stopped. This shows the dictatorial attitude of the Siddaramaiah government. When assembly elections are held under the Election Commission of India, my party will contest in Bengaluru and wherever else in Karnataka we can contest. I challenge Siddaramaiah to stop me then. Only by taking my life, he can stop me," Owaisi said.
The Karnataka government has told the state high court that Owaisi will inflame communal passions and prevented him from addressing any public meeting since February. "From February to August, there is a communal problem in Bengaluru? Why are you holding elections then?" he asked.
He slammed the Congress as a party that did not believe in freedom of expression or in democracy.
"If Digvijaya Singh can hold a roadshow in Bengaluru, Asaduddin Owaisi cannot address a single public meeting? You (Congress) are calling Owaisi a Nizam, not a Tipu Sultan. If you put a tiger in the cage, won't people see him as a tiger?" he asked, alluding to Mysore kingdom's benign ruler Tipu Sultan, who is referred to as Tiger and to the Nizam of Hyderabad, who funded a riotous religious army called Razakars around 1947 that wrecked havoc in Hyderabad-Karnataka and wanted to join Pakistan.
Owaisi pointed to the 35 public meetings that he addressed in Maharashtra during the state assembly elections and the six meetings he held in Aurangabad. "I've addressed a meeting in (communally-sensitive) Kishanganj, Bihar.
There was no problem, nothing happened. Yes, I will provoke you. I will definitely hurt you, expose you. But the day I cross the line of sections 153 (wantonly provoke riots) or 297 (insulting religion) of the IPC, you can stop me. The state is bigger than Asaduddin Owaisi," he said.