Ahead of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday said that he had come to the state to defeat the BJP.
Mounting a severe attack on Samajwadi Party, Owaisi claimed that Muslims has been cheated in the name of secularism and that the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen party had made all booth-level arrangements to contest 100 out of the total 403 assembly seats in UP.
Starting his political campaign in the poll-bound state from Ayodhya, Owaisi also said that his party's goal was to develop strong Muslim leadership in the state.
"Our first effort is that our Muslim leadership should be developed in the biggest state of the country that is Uttar Pradesh," he said.
Addressing a rally at Rasulabad village in the Muslim-dominated constituency of Rudauli in Ayodhya, the AIMIM leader urged Muslims not to live "in the shadows" and alleged that SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has always created fear among the community.
"Nineteen percent (of voters) are Muslims and nine percent are Yadavs, but the chief minister will be yours (of the Yadav clan) and we (Muslims) will not even get the job of a peon," the AIMIM chief said targeting the Samajwadi Party which has been relying on the Muslim-Yadav combination for victory in the state.
Owaisi claimed that Yadav voters were not voting for Muslim candidates.
He alleged that other political parties do not want the Muslim leadership to develop in the country and said Muslims were "helpless" in Uttar Pradesh as they have been denied their "share".
"Everyone got a share in UP, but the Muslims of UP did not get their share. Muslims have been cheated in the name of secularism, " Owaisi alleged.
"The AAP, SP, BSP did not want anyone from the Muslim community to emerge as a leader. As I am talking of giving participation to Muslims, they are feeling uncomfortable," he said.
He lashed out at the ruling BJP over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and asserted that his objective is to defeat the saffron party.
"We have been intimidated by (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Yogi (Adityanath), but we have come to defeat the BJP.
"People have lost their lives in the COVID-19 pandemic. People have died due to the lack of oxygen. The dead bodies were buried on the banks of the river and were scavenged by the dogs," he said.
The venue of the rally was around 20 km away from Dhannipur, where a mosque is coming up under the Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi case.
"Why do Muslims in Ayodhya feel ashamed or apprehensive to even talk about the Babri demolition. All political parties have exploited Muslims and Dalits," Owaisi said
Talking about the controversy over Ayodhya being referred to by its old name 'Faizabad' in his posters, he said, "Some people started saying that I don't want to take the name of Ayodhya. I want to say that Ayodhya belongs to India. Faizabad belongs to India and Owaisi also belongs to India."
Jailed gangster and former MP Atiq Ahmad's wife Shaista Praveen on Tuesday joined the AIMIM in the presence of Owaisi in Lucknow. Ahmad joined the new party in absentia.
Owaisi alleged that SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party used Muslims as "slaves".
The AIMIM leader began his three-day tour to UP from Tuesday. He is scheduled to visit Sultanpur and Barabanki on September 8 and September 9 respectively.
Owaisi has been making efforts to expand the party across the country and has had some success in Maharashtra and Bihar. The party, however, could not make gains in West Bengal.
"Muslims used to do 'gulami' (slavery) of Samajwadi Party and BSP and raise slogans in their favour and to make their government. But when it came to giving them participation, they did not talk," he said
"When it comes to giving participation and representation to the Muslims, they say it will increase communalism. The SP and BSP contested elections together, yet the BJP won. Muslims had given them votes. Where have all those votes gone?" he said.
Owaisi said he has joined hands with Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party and other parties are also with them.
On giving tickets to Hindus, Owaisi said, "The OBCs are our brothers, we will give tickets to Dalits also and they will win.”
Meanwhile, the BJP hit back at Owaisi, saying Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will not allow "Jinnah's jihadi mentality" to flourish in Uttar Pradesh.
"Giving protection to a notorious criminal like Atiq Ahmed in the name of providing protection to the community, inducting him and his wife in AIMIM shows Owaisi's mentality. But keep in mind that Yogi Ji will not allow Jinnah's johadi mentality to flourish in UP," BJP Kannauj MP Subrat Pathak said in a tweet in Hindi.
Owaisi, however, defended his decision to induct Ahmad, who has several criminal cases lodged against him, claiming that several BJP leaders are also facing several cases.
A five-time legislator and one-time MP, Atiq Ahmad has more than 90 criminal cases, including those of murders, abductions, illegal mining, extortion, intimidation and fraud, against him. He is lodged in a Gujarat jail. He was shifted there from Uttar Pradesh on the Supreme Court's directions in 2019.
The Congress also questioned Owaisi's move to begin his poll campaign from Ayodhya.
"I came to know that AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi started his poll campaign in the state from Ayodhya. Though he does politics of minority, I was thinking that he would start his poll campaign from Deva Sharif (in Barabanki)," National Chairman of Congress' Minorities Department Imran Pratapgarhi told PTI in Lucknow, "
"The entire UP knows that for whom he is contesting the polls. Though everyone has the right to contest polls, why is he contesting only on 100 seats and not on all the 403 Assembly seats in UP," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)