The AIMIM is participating in the Uttar Pradesh polls to fight for the Muslim community's dignity, the party's chief Asaduddin Owaisi said.
Speaking to The Quint in an exclusive interview, Owaisi explained his decision to throw his party's hat in the UP polls.
"Yes, there is a cloud of intolerance in the country. But if there is a tornado in your house, will someone else will come and save you? You have to save yourself, you have to build your own leadership," he said.
Countering allegations of being BJP's B-team, which some times come from within the Muslim community, Owaisi said the BJP isn't winning because of him.
"We didn't fight the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from UP, then how did BJP win? BJP won in 2014 and 2017 too. So Muslims need to understand that BJP isn't winning because of them. BJP is winning because of the majority community's votes," he said.
The AIMIM chief further accused 'secular' parties like the Congress and SP of presiding over massacres of minorities.
"Congress gave you the 1987 Hashimpura massacre, the 1980 Moradabad Edigah massacre. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots took place under Akhilesh Yadav's SP. Under BJP's Yogi Adityanath, not a single day goes without Muslims being harassed," Owaisi said.
"So who is your leader? Who will speak up for you? Who will wipe your tears and fight for you? If you think it will be someone from these parties, you are mistaken," he added.
'Candidature of Muslims Doesn't Amount to Representation'
One of the primary aspects of the AIMIM's politics is their call for political representation of Muslims, and how other parties have failed to ensure that. However, in the the 2022 UP polls, other opposition parties too have fielded Muslim candidates in significant numbers. But Owaisi said this doesn't amount to meaningful representation.
"There were 69 Muslim MLAs in the UP assembly during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. None of them dared to raise the voice of the several thousands who were displaced. Most of them didn't even go visit the victims," Owaisi said. "My point is that merely having a high number of Muslim candidates or even MLAs is not representation," he added.
"The way India's politics is framed, it is important for communities to have their own leaders and representatives who will speak up for them. Only then will their grievances be addressed," Owaisi said.
"Did Akhilesh Yadav make any public statement against the Dharam Sansad? Did Jayant Chaudhary? Did behen Mayawati? Were these people visible during the anti-CAA protests? No they weren't," he added.
Owaisi added that the opposition 'secular' parties are even scared of uttering the word 'Muslim'.
"Forget the word Muslim, these people won't even use the phrase 'minority community' in their public speeches," Owaisi said.
The leader further accused the parties of taking Muslim votes for granted.
"They just want Muslims to lay a carpet for them, and give up their youth to ensure the victory of these parties," he said.
'Can't Force any Party to join hands with me'
The leader recently announced his alliance called the 'Bhagidari Parivartan Morcha', as part of which the AIMIM will be contesting in 100 seats. The CM-face announced by the party is Babu Singh Kushwaha of the Jan Adhikar Party.
The AIMIM's decision to field 100 candidates received criticism from religious scholar and AIMPLB member Sajjad Nomani, who wrote an open letter to the leader, asking him to contest in limited constituencies only- where winning is certain.
Responding to this, Owaisi said, "I respect him (Nomani) a lot, and will continue to do so. But our decision to fight on 100 seats has been made with consultation among party members, and our alliance partners."
The AIMIM had OP Rajbhar's SBSP had earlier joined hands, but had a public fall out few months ago, after which the latter went and joined hands with the SP.
"He (Rajbhar) was the convenor of our alliance, but then he left and joined the SP. But many other smaller parties who were part of that grand alliance stayed back. They are with us today," Owaisi said.
"I cannot control who does or doesn't ally with us. We can't force anyone to join hands with us. We can only try our best, and I am certain we will do very well in these elections," he said.