Come to any election and people start tagging Asaduddin Owaisi as a vote cutter and all other names. The most recent in this trend is him being called out Amit Shah’s agent after he decides to contest on 100 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
As far as one can recall, he was the lone Muslim voice who opposed the criminalisation of Triple Talaq, CAA in the parliament and on many other important issues where so-called secular forces remained numb and their Muslim leaders skipped sessions to pamper to the conscience of the majority community. So to call him an agent is making a fool of oneself without realising it.
Now coming down to the arithmetics in Uttar Pradesh, Muslims constitute around 20 per cent of the total population in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav’s form 15 per cent, Dalits, 21 per cent and forward castes around 23 per cent.
The state in recent decades has been a hub of caste and identity politics and party’s that have ruled the state have majorly relied upon mobilisation of backwards along with Muslims. Samajwadi Party has relied on Yadav + Muslims + OBCs, BSP on Dalits +Muslims + OBCs. The important point to note here is that while UP had Yadav CM, Dalit CM, CM from forward Castes , it never had a Muslim CM despite them forming a major chunk of the population in the state, more than Yadav’s, and almost equal to Dalits. Most of the Muslim leaders have been subservient to their Akas and had no political power, in reality, look at the fate of Azam Khan. Time and again Muslims have been subjected to communal violence, the list is endless. And all this happened not just under BJP’s rule but also the so-called secular outfits.
With 20 per cent of the population in the state, Muslims have all the right to not just contest elections separately but also dream of having a Muslim CM and a real say in power. So rather than labelling Asaduddin Owaisi as an agent and vote cutter, secular outfits should consider having an alliance with him and be willing to share political power with the community. It’s time that secular outfits own the independent Muslim leaders, consider them equals and not just look at the Muslim community as a vote bank or else the churning within the community will take it far away from them while they continue to rely on stooges from Pratapgarh.
(Asad Ashraf is a freelance journalist working for reputed magazine ‘Carvan’.)