Assaduddin Owaisi has vowed to do everything to prevent BJP's Narendra Modi from becoming the country's prime minister. It is a different matter that the 44-year-old Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader has a limited writ — restricted to Hyderabad and perhaps to a few more districts in Andhra Pradesh. And although Owaisi has never lost an election from Hyderabad, the 2014 general election may just toss a surprise.
Muslims make up 65 per cent of Hyderabad Parliamentary constituency and Hindus make up 30 per cent. The rest is divided between Anglo-Indians and others. Traditionally, a split of votes between the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party had always given the minority-strong MIM a clean sweep and Owaisi therefore had an edge here. But for the first time since 1984, MIM is going solo in the state; the party decided not to continue its alliance with the Congress every since former Andhra chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy's government jailed Assaduddin and his brother, Akbaruddin Owaisi, in connection with a hate speech and an assault last year.
Owaisi is up against TDP-BJP candidate Bhagwanth Rao and the Telugu Rashtra Samithi's Rashid Sharif. But he is so confident of his chances that he declared that the MIM cannot be defeated in Hyderabad as long as the iconic Charminar remains in the city.
Indeed, this constituency has remained with the party since 1984; Owaisi's father, Sultan Salauddin Owaisi, held the Charminar Assembly seat for three terms before he contested the Parliamentary seat. In 2004, Owaisi took over the Parliamentary seat from his father, who retired from politics due to his old age.
Assaduddin, an alumni of Nizam College and Osmania University, went to London where he studied law (L.L.B) and barrister-at-law. After his return to India, Owaisi seldom practised, but he did plead in the Babri Masjid demolition case. In 1994, when he was just 24, Owaisi contested his first election — the Charminar assembly seat, which was thus far represented by his father. Owaisi won the seat, and there has been no looking back for him since.
Both Salauddin and his son, Owaisi, also called barrister, are known for making inciting speeches. They have often said that the Indian state has abandoned Muslims. Early in 2013, Owaisi sparked a controversy when he invoked Islamic terrorism by saying that the Muslim youth would rise against India.
"If proper rehabilitation does not take place, you be ready for a third wave of radicalization among Muslim youth," Owaisi had said and on January 20 surrendered before the Sangareddy court in Medak district.
He was remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.
Owaisi's hate speech was related to a 2005 March case when he, Akbaruddin and MIM activists allegedly entered into heated arguments with then Medak Collector AK Singhal and brutally manhandled him in the wake of a mosque demolition in the district's Muttangi village. Owaisi and Akbaruddin had allegedly abused the Collector and the local police inspector because they did not have the Wakf's approval to demolish the mosque. "Muslims are always at the receiving end in this country. Nobody hoists any case against Hindus making hate speeches against Muslims," said Owaisi, a father of five daughters and a son.
Asked to comment on his chances in 2014, Owaisi said that not only Muslims but even the Hindus in Hyderabad will vote against Modi. "I won against a Muslim TDP candidate by a margin of over one lakh votes in 2009. Now, with both Hindus as rivals from the TDP and the Congress, I don't see any challenge."