All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi has denied that his party's role in the next month's Gujarat Assembly elections would be to eat into the Congress's vote share, and blamed the grand old party for the BJP's long run in power in the state.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to create an "anti-Muslim narrative" during the campaign by raising issues such as the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and Mehrauli murder case, he alleged.
In an interview to PTI, Mr Owaisi, on a campaign tour in Kutch district where his party is contesting two seats, refuted the claim that the AIMIM was a "vote katua" (vote-cutter) party.
"Why is the Congress levelling allegations against us? Is it to hide its own deficiencies? The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for the last 27 years, only Congress was in the opposition. Who had stopped Congress from defeating the BJP, and why had they failed to defeat them for nearly three decades? The Congress must first answer this question," he said.
The Congress has accused both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the AIMIM as being the "B-teams" of the BJP.
"Let me make this clear, we are not here to eat into anyone's vote share. We are here to fight against the BJP," Mr Owaisi said, pointing out that his party was contesting only 13 out of 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly.
"Let Congress win 169 seats and form the government. It is because of its incapability and reluctance to take on the BJP that the latter has been in power for 27 years, it is because of them the BJP is winning," the AIMIM chief said.
The Congress has made a compromise with the BJP in Gujarat, he said.
Referring to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's defeat from Amethi Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 general elections, he wondered if it was a "setting" (secret deal).
"If the AIMIM is accused of having a 'setting' with the BJP, then we too can say the same about the Congress. Was the defeat of Rahul Gandhi from Amethi an example of a setting between BJP and Congress? Because he contested from two seats and won from one (Wayanad) but lost in Amethi," he said.
The AIMIM was contesting elections in Gujarat like any other political party, he said. The party is contesting Assembly polls in Gujarat for the first time.
"We initially put up candidates in 14 seats, but one of our candidates joined the Congress. So we are now contesting 13 seats. I am confident and hopeful of getting people's support," the four-time MP from Hyderabad said.
The seats the AIMIM is contesting are Muslim-dominated areas which have been traditionally Congress strongholds.
Accusing the BJP of trying to vitiate the atmosphere by creating an "anti-Muslim narrative", Mr Owaisi said the issue of UCC was raised deliberately during the campaign.
"They are raising such issues to create a communal narrative. The BJP is trying to bring in Uniform Civil Code for Muslims, and for Hindus it will be the Hindu Code. They are trying to divide the people," he said.
The BJP leaders also speak about Aaftab Poonawala, who is accused of brutally killing his live-in partner Shraddha Walkar in Delhi, during the campaign for the same reason, he alleged.
Crime against women should not be linked to any religion, he added.
"There are many instances of women being at the receiving end of men's cruelty. So, this is an issue of the sick mentality of men, and it should be condemned. But connecting this incident to religion is unacceptable. The BJP is doing this deliberately to create more hatred against Muslims," he said.
When asked what would be the AIMIM's strategy if it wins some seats and there is a hung Assembly, Mr Owaisi refused to answer, saying it was a hypothetical question.
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