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July 20, 2008
Asaduddin Owaisi, a British-trained barrister, is the public face of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. The son of party president Salahuddin Owaisi, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hyderabad, a Muslim-dominated constituency and MIM citadel. Owaisi, 35, has announced his support to the United Progressive Alliance government during the trust vote in the Lok Sabha. A decision that has surprised many, given the impression that Muslims are opposed to the India-US nuclear deal. Mohammad Siddique asked the young MP why he decided to support the UPA:

Why has the MIM decided to support the UPA government?

For us the deal is not the immediate concern. Our top priority is to stop the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and L K Advani from coming to power as they pose an immediate threat to the secular polity of the country and to the life, identity and development of Muslims.

While voting tomorrow my immediate concern will be how to stop L K Advani from becoming the prime minister of this great nation as he is an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition criminal case. On the nuclear deal we have already conveyed our reservations and concerns to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi [Images].

How do you explain your decision to your support base when it is being said that Muslims are against the deal with the US?

First, there is no basis for saying that Indian Muslims are against this deal. It is an international agreement and by trying to give a communal colour some parties are indulging in cynical manipulation of Muslims for their own political ambitions and desires.

M K Padhe of the CPI-M and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati are telling the people that Muslims are against it. I would like to question the CPI-M and Mayawati why don't you say that Hindus are for the deal, that Dalits are against it and whether the backwards were for or against the deal.

Why do you have to put a gun on my shoulder and fire? Why do you have to put me in the spot? The MIM believes this is a canard being spread that will lead to more hatred towards the Muslims. This will give a handle to the Sangh Parviar and help them in the electoral process.

We will tell the people we are trying to stop Advani and the BJP by voting in support of the UPA.

But what is your stand on the deal?

We have strong reservations about it and we believe it will have an impact on the foreign policy of the country. We also strongly condemn what the United States is doing in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. We are also concerned about the US's design on Iran. We have discussed all this with the prime minister.

He told me to quote him on this. He had told the US that the attack on Iraq was a monumental mistake and it will be unworthy of him as prime minister of this country if he compromises on foreign policy. He also assured me that India will press ahead with the Iran gas pipeline project. Whether or not the deal will impact foreign policy will become clearer when a testing time comes.

The prime minister has also told the US that military action against Iran is not a solution. He has also drawn the attention of the US to the fact that India has 5 million of its people in the Gulf who will be affected by any war in the region.

On the nuclear deal the crux of the issue is that we require power. There is no dispute as far as that is concerned. The biggest example I can give which all of us are facing is that we are suffering three hours of power cuts in Hyderabad, the state capital. It is five, six hours in the districts.

But for us the question is who the biggest evil is. For us it is L K Advani first, second is Prakash Karat and then comes (US President George W) Bush.

Why Karat?

History will never forgive the CPI-M and Prakash Karat for creating this political crisis in the country, which will only benefit the forces of Hindutva and weaken secularism. To me, the BJP and CPI-M are the two sides of the same coin.

I would like to ask the CPI-M if their love for Muslims is so much why did you kill Muslims in Nandigram [Images]? How is it that in your 33 years of rule in West Bengal where 28% Muslims reside, their share in government employment is only 2.8%.

This love for Muslims is not shown over there but when it comes to further their own political ambitions to hide their ideologies they make Muslims the Bali Ka Bakra (scapegoats).

Mayawati is also making similar noises linking the opposition to the deal to the Muslims.

If she was genuinely concerned about Muslim, why did her government and the Samajwadi Party government since 2001 not comply with the court order to club the two cases of the Babri Masjid demolition. If that was done, the case against Advani would have become much stronger.

There is a strong case against Advani, Uma Bharti and the entire top brass of the Sangh Parivar.

So you feel it is odd that the nuclear deal is being linked to the Muslims?

We strongly detest this entire business of dragging Muslims into the nuclear deal issue.

If so much importance is given to my likes and dislikes on an international agreement, a simple question arises. As a Muslim I would like to ask these parties who are using me to further their political ideologies and desires, why did you demolish the Babri Masjid? Was I asked? Was I taken into confidence before my families were butchered in Gujarat, where pregnant women's stomachs were slashed open and properties were looted?

Accusations are flying thick and fast that individual MPs are being lured by offering crores of rupees to support the UPA. What you have been offered?

I am not so cheap to be sold for Rs 25 crore. The MIM has been given Rs 5,000 crore. I am not kidding. The prime minister has promised to look into our demand for the implementation of the Fatimi committee report on the Sachar committee findings. Under this four centres of the Aligarh Muslim University and Maulana Azad National Urdu university will be set up and it will be a great boon to uplift Muslims educationally. The committee has also made many other recommendations.

Finally, are you happy with what the UPA has done for the minorities during last four years?

Yes. In its five years the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) had spent all of Rs 20 crore on only two schemes for Muslims in the country. The UPA on the other hand has doubled the minority welfare budget from Rs 500 crore to Rs 1,000 crore in the last one year, increased the Maulana Azad educational fund corpus from Rs 100 crore to Rs 250 crore in two years and in the 11th Plan the corpus is going to be increasede to Rs 750 crore.

The UPA created a national commission for minority education. For minority welfare the NDA government had only given Rs 200 crores in the entire 10th Plan whereas the UPA gave Rs 1,000 in 2008-09.

They repealed the draconian POTA under which hundreds of people were booked and many of them are still languishing in jails. The UPA government has given ex gratia to the victims of the pogrom in Gujarat and the Bhagalpur riots.

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