Assam Assembly Election: Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF is contesting 19 seats in the state election
AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal - who is part of the Congress-led 'mahajot' (alliance) in the Assam election, and who identifies himself as "the only target of the BJP" - on Tuesday accused the ruling party of polarising voters and reserving their venom for him because they had failed the people.
Mr Ajmal also took a swipe at senior BJP figures - like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah - for failing to acknowledge courtesy gifts of perfumes and fragrances he'd sent them; the 71-year-old is the owner of a successful perfumery established by his father.
"'Badruddin Ajmal' is an issue because they want to polarise... they are polarising the people by stoking fears of this dadiwalla (someone with a beard) or topiwala (someone wearing a hat) will become the Chief Minister and bring in Bangladeshis..." Mr Ajmal told NDTV.
"They (the BJP) didn't fulfill any of their promises (to the people of Assam). They said (ahead of the 2016 polls) that they would control price rise... but didn't. They promised to control floods... but didn't. They promised to open industries... but didn't. They've done nothing... have nothing to talk about... and so for every question, the answer is 'Badruddin Ajmal'," he added.
Mr Ajmal dismissed the BJP leaders and their campaign strategy as vapid and lacking in substance, and said it only revealed that they were not capable of running the government.
"Sometimes they dance... sometimes they ride a bicycle... but they don't talk on issues. And when anything is asked of them, they say 'Badruddin Ajmal'. What they are actually saying is that they are not capable of running the government," he said.
He warned the BJP - seeking a second successive term - that their tactic would not work, and that a united Congress-AIUDF would present a formidable challenge.
"Earlier Congress and our vote used to get divided. This time, the vote will not be divided. Congress candidates will get Muslim votes, they will be victorious..." he predicted.
Assam Assembly Election: Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF is contesting 19 seats in this election (File)
In 2016 split votes between the Congress and AIUDF gave the BJP over 20 seats. This month he told NDTV he was confident of swaying 35 per cent of the votes in the alliance's favour.
"I am not a liability for the alliance... am an asset. People of Assam are not afraid of me... they love Badruddin Ajmal," he said, and squashed talk of him maybe becoming the Chief Minister.
"Who will be Chief Minister? The Congress will get more votes... so Chief Minister will be from that party," he said, adding, "Badruddin Ajmal's role will be to fulfill promises and keep people united."
Mr Ajmal was also asked about allegations that he has called on Indian Muslims to have more children; he firmly denied these claims, as well as the BJP's claims of a "communal" agenda
"... never said to increase population... said promote education among children... I believe in science, I run schools, colleges... can never say such a thing," he said, pointing out that nearly a third of children enrolled in his institutions were from Hindu families.
Finally, on the question of perfumes, Mr Ajmal said: "Have gifted perfumes to Modiji, Amit Shah - if they don't use it, what can I do? Whenever I meet senior leaders, I gift them perfumes."
The AIUDF is contesting some 19 seats as a part of the opposition alliance.
The first phase of the three-phase Assam Assembly election was held on March 27, with 47 seats voting. The second will be on April 1 and third on April 6. Results are expected May 2.