Hyderabad: When any political calculations of the assembly seats are made in Hyderabad, the seven seats held by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are usually counted out. That is because no matter what, those constituencies are seen as the AIMIM and its leader Asaduddin Owaisi’s impregnable bastions in the old city areas. The party has been winning them since 2009 and the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat since 1984.
In the forthcoming 7 December state elections, the AIMIM has decided to support the caretaker chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and is contesting eight seats in Hyderabad. Party chief and Hyderabad Lok Sabha member of Parliament (MP) Owaisi explains his decision and his position on other election-related issues in an interview. Edited excerpts:
The AIMIM and TRS maintain that they are “friendly" parties. What exactly does that mean?
The TRS has candidates in our eight constituencies (that AIMIM is contesting), and a political contest cannot be friendly. But outside our eight seats, we are supporting TRS. Because other than the two unfortunate (recent) caste incidents, the law and order situation has been good.
Minority schools have 50,000 boys and girls who are studying, and there are schemes like the Shaadi Mubarak scheme (under which eligible families get ₹ 1 lakh in assistance for the marriage of Muslim women), the overseas scholarship scheme, etc, which are fantastic programmes.
What are the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) chances in Hyderabad this time?
I don’t think they have any chances against us for the work we have done and this is no place where you can talk about kabristan, shamshan and polarize (voters). I am hopeful that the existing strength of BJP will be further reduced. The minorities and Muslims in particular are the safest in Telangana and that is what the BJP is not able to swallow.
Are parties prepping for 2019 (general elections) through Telangana elections?
I don’t see any great benefit of this praja kutami (people’s movement) as people want a third voice, an alternative to the BJP or Congress. The political diversity must be reflected by the regional parties. And parties like AIMIM and TRS reflect this while national parties don’t. It’s not good for our country that power alternates between BJP and Congress.
But several regional parties are backing the Congress to lead the grand alliance?
Rahul Gandhi called the TRS the “B" team of the BJP. This is exactly what he said about Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka and (the Congress) is now sharing power with them. You think secularism is safe with the Congress but it is because of them that minorities are suffering today and BJP is in power. The argument that Congress is a holy cow and standing with them cleanses all your sins and anyone who opposes them is communal, is something I reject. Why should I stand with a leader who is called a janeu dharan Hindu. I don’t fall in the Varna system and they (Congress) say their DNA is of Brahmins. If I had made a similar statement the other way around, I would have been crucified by the 9pm nationalists of TV.
What about Telugu Desam Party (TDP)?
It is sheer opportunism that he (TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu) seeks votes for Narendra Modi in 2014 and was as much responsible for the 2002 Gujarat carnage and now he talks about saving the nation. His biggest problem is his credibility. TDP was against the Congress and has joined them now. I have called the alliance the East India Company 2018.
Is 2019 likely to be the most polarized elections?
BJP will definitely try this but people will not fall for this trap. Never in your or my lifetime, any party will get 280 seats. That is not going to happen.