Hyderabad: Muslim leadership is responsible to an extent for the community’s vulnerable and pathetic conditions, says some intellectuals. In such a scenario, the leaders who are sincerely striving for the betterment of the community have to assume added responsibility. Numerous concerned community members are doing their bit to uplift the community from its various levels of backwardness. But with political empowerment, the betterment of the community could be achieved speedily and at a mass level.
SM Fasiullah speaks with Mr. Zahid Ali Khan, a popular figure among Hyderabad Muslims and editor of Siasat newspaper, to know how he can benefit the community without being in active politics. He quit Telugu Desam Party (TDP) after it formed electoral alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for upcoming general elections. Though Mr. Khan gave strong competition to AIMIM supremo and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi in last Lok Sabha elections, he has now decided not to contest in the election.
TCN: You quit TDP after its electoral alliance with BJP. How will it help the community you represent?
ZAK: I was sure what agenda Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would come up with. When talks were going on between TDP and BJP on seat sharing and TDP hoped to gain few seats in Telangana, I told Chandrababu Naidu that it would hurt me and the Muslim community. Also, I clearly informed him to fight elections on his own strength capitalizing on the party cadre, without joining hands with BJP. I warned him that I would be the first person to resign in case of an alliance with BJP. Mr. Chandrababu Naidu broke the promise he gave to public by joining hands with BJP. In the wake of these developments, I decided to quit in the best interest of the Muslim community.
TCN: Why BJP or its policies make you so uncomfortable?
ZAK: Apart from Ram Mandir and Uniform Civil Code, there are hidden agendas of BJP that do not come out in public – such as, whether they are trying to make Muslims secondary citizens in the country.
Also there is no ethics found in politics nowadays. Any politician jumps from party to party for his/her personal gains. For me, my interest is my community’s interest. I entered politics to serve my people, but realized that it is not possible so far you are in active politics.
TCN: Considering your position and influence, don’t you think your presence in TDP would have yielded better results than your absence?
ZAK: No party gives value to Muslim leaders, including TDP. When Congress was not in power, Muslims did not leave Gandhi Bhavan (Hyderabad) even in such times. But when Congress came to power it neglected Muslims and their needs. On the contrary, Congress played role in looting waqf properties of Muslims in the state, including 1300 acres of court land and the land where Lanco Hills are being built. What politicians and their parties want is to amass wealth, and promote members of their kin. I would have joined any other party but all political parties are tainted. I have realized that service to Muslims can’t be done by remaining in the party. Being editor of Siasat Daily I can work much more for the community.
TCN: You have decided not to contest in this general election. What happened to your goal to ‘uplift Muslims of Hyderabad’ that you set in 2009 then?
ZAK: I have been working from my Siasat office for educational and economic development of Muslims, more than an MP does. Now I have taken up the issue of widows and divorcees in the region. Being a political representative of any party, one may not be able to do much because of party leadership interference. As an editor, I feel more independent and comfortable to take up any community welfare activity.
TCN: When you entered active politics, you were hopeful of bringing out Muslims from their ‘pathetic conditions’ by entering politics. How will you realize it now without political power?
ZAK: Show me a community leader in politics who did substantial/satisfactory work for the community in the last two decades. Nothing much changed for people living in Old City (Hyderabad) in the last two-three decades, despite so called powerful leadership. Had doors to Middle East not opened (job opportunities in gulf countries), conditions of Muslims in the city would have been worse. They have improved standards of living by working in foreign countries. In fact the facilities they should have been provided in the city are still missing. It becomes responsibility of their political leaders to offer better facilities within the city.
TCN: Don’t you think staying away from active politics will disappoint voters who voted for you in last elections?
ZAK: I have promised them. Whatever I could have done being an MP, much better than that I will do by being the editor of Siasat. It’s hard to believe in any politicians nowadays. They give false promises and fool people. To contest elections you need crores of rupees. Where does this come from? I want to use my own money to benefit the community, unlike others who loot their community to amass wealth for themselves. I believe, if you have determination to serve the people then you will surely do.
TCN: Even before formation of Telangana State, political parties in the region have discriminatively sidelined Muslims by not giving tickets. What is your comment on Muslim interests in the new state?
ZAK: Parties should give ticket to their respective Muslim members. In addition to giving the ticket, the party must provide necessary backup and resources to ensure the candidate wins. The candidate’s victory means party’s victory. Last time TDP gave me ticket, but neither Mr. Chandrababu nor late Lal Jan Basha came to support me or took part in my public activities. TDP did not offer any financial help to me for contesting, and K. Vijaya Rama Rao too did not come for support. Whatever performance I delivered in last elections, it was due to my efforts and love of people who voted for me. A political party does not pay much heed to a candidate. If a community decides not to vote then the party will run after it; primarily to come to power and retain it.
TCN: TRS promised 12% reservations to Muslims in Telangana State, after it becomes reality. How feasible it is from legal point of view, and what your experience says about it in general?
ZAK: Politicians are expert in giving promises and breaking them. For instance, Mr. Naidu promised in a public meeting long ago that he will not join hands with BJP ever. But he did now. When it comes to reservations to Muslims, not only TRS but also TDP promised it. False assurances are part of politics in the country. Muzaffar Ali Khan (of TDP) worked continuously for last two years, but he was not given ticket because that constituency has been given to BJP. There is no guarantee of politicians or parties. Therefore, I am fed up of this politics. I want to start a new politics. The one which helps Muslims attain educational, economic and social empowerment, something which they were denied in last sixty years in the country. It would ensure development of the community. It will keep Siasat in forefront for this task.
TCN: Do you have plans to join AAP, especially when it offered you the ticket?
ZAK: Yes I have received letter from Aam Aadmi Party to join it and contest for Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat on its ticket. I have tried to analyze whether the party that exists over a 1,000km away from Hyderabad and riding high only in North India could have considerable influence here in the city. A clear picture would have emerged only when Arvind Kejriwal visited the city and addressed public. Neither he visited AP nor did any wave of him become visible here. Anyway, I have finally decided not to contest.
TCN: Your son Amir Ali Khan recently joined YSRCP of Jaganmohan Reddy, who openly praises BJP PM Candidate Narendra Modi. What’s your comment on this?
ZAK: Amir Ali Khan is a childhood friend of YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Therefore he agreed to support Mr. Jagan as a Muslim face in both the regions (Telangana & Andhra). Amir told Jagan that he would join YSRCP only for the development of the community. Mr. Jagan also offered ticket to Amir to contest from Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat. I have told him not to take part in electoral politics sensing that YSRCP may also join hands with BJP in future. Thankfully, Amir turned down the offer to contest from Secunderabad.