A day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned against “minority
extremism” in an obvious attack on the AIMIM, party chief Asaduddin Owaisi hit back on Tuesday (November 19), saying Muslims in the TMC chief’s state are ranked ‘worst’ on development indicators.
Marking a shift in her rhetoric on religious extremism, Banerjee had, at an event in Cooch Behar on Monday (Novemmber 18), asked people to refrain from listening to “minority
extremists” who have their base in Hyderabad, apparently targeting Owaisi, a Lok Sabha MP from that city.
Without naming the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), Banerjee said, “There are some extremists among the minorities. They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them. Don’t trust these forces”.
The TMC boss’s comments did not go down well with Owaisi, who is seeking to expand his party’s realm of influence beyond Hyderabad to other states.
“When arrogance gets to your head you make nonsensical, baseless statements. She is making these statements because she is frustrated…because she is losing ground…and she has demeaned all the Muslims who have voted for her,” Owaisi said in New Delhi.
He said neither he went to West Bengal to campaign during the Lok Sabha polls and nor his party fielded a candidate.
“It’s not religious extremism to say that Bengal’s Muslims have one of the worst human development indicators of any minority,” he earlier wrote on Twitter.
It’s not religious extremism to say that Bengal’s Muslims have one of the worst human development indicators of any minority
If Didi is worried about a bunch of us “from Hyderabad” then she should tell us how BJP won 18/42 LS seats from Bengal https://t.co/sWW9gyRfH3
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) November 19, 2019
When asked by a TV news channel whether he hoped to extend AIMIMs influence in West Bengal, the Hyderabad MP said his party has already been working in the state for a year-
“I have to contest the election if I believe in democracy. I have to contest election if I have to realise my constitutional rights….to stop these opportunistic parties who have used Muslims to be in power,” he asserted.
He said Banerjee’s statement only reinforced the fact that AIMIM has become a “formidable force” in the state.
Bengal has a sizeable Muslim electorate and the BJP, which has emerged as the main challenger to the TMC after the Lok Sabha polls, has often alleged that Banerjee and her party’s “appeasement policy” had led to the “rise of minority extremism” in the state.
For years, the AIMIMs influence was limited to the old Hyderabad city before it forayed into Maharashtra and two of its candidates won the assembly elections from there in 2014.
The party now has a Lok Sabha member from Maharashtra and it recently pocketed the Muslim dominated Kishanganj seat in Bihar in a bypoll to make its maiden entry into the state assembly.