Waseem Ahmed, a Muslim candidate contesting for Karimnagar Assembly seat, talks about his political journey, support from the community, controversy surrounding JIH, and his political heavyweight opponents during a conversation with Fasiullah SM, editor of Hyderabad Youth Mirror. Below are the excerpts:
- You were the first Muslim candidate to get a party ticket after announcement of Elections 2018 in Telangana. Why Bahujan Left Front (BLF) chose you?
Ever since contesting in Karimnagar on Welfare Party of India (WPI) ticket in 2014, I have been into public welfare services. I have tried to reach out to about 2,81,000 voters. I focused on various issues in villages and towns, and spent time with the voters. That is why BLF came forward offering me the party ticket to contest. It is a matter of pride for Muslims of Telangana that the first ever ticket post announcement of elections was given to me.
- After your nomination, have you received the support from the Muslim community?
Initially, people were concerned that the communal forces would get a ground due to emergence of a Muslim candidate. But the fear disappeared when they realized that there is only one Muslim candidate among 25 nominees. Also, I visited about 50 thousand households of 70 thousand in Karimnagar as the first candidate to meet the voters. This built up confidence among voters, and many came forward to help me voluntarily.
- But Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) Telangana chapter did not support you despite being a Muslim candidate. Why?
The very state policy of JIH is wrong. They have offered state-wide support to TRS Party out of personal affection. But they are supporting three non-TRS candidates for being Muslims. They are: Shabbir Ali (Congress), Hamadan (Congress) and Welfare party candidate in Goshamahal Constituency. The
At one hand, JIH praises the TRS government as pro-secularism and pro-Muslim. On the other hand, they support three Muslim candidates in the name of establishment of value-based politics. Interestingly, they also say that their internal survey show 95% support for TRS. It is a dual policy. You offer support to the Congress and Welfare party candidates as they are Muslims. But does not support a Muslim candidate from Karimnagar, who had been a long-time Jamaat worker, and worked with MPJ (Movement for Peace and Justice), SIO (Students Islamic Organisation), Islamic Welfare Society, Welfare Party of India, and many of its offshoots.
In Karimnagar, almost 80 percent of Jamaat cadre is my relatives. Some of them have been in leadership positions, including myself. Yet, their decision to not support me was strange. I believe some members of local Jamaat might have influenced the decision. Nevertheless, a majority of its cadre has met ne in-person and offered me their support, considering reputation of my political opponents.
- What are the core issues that you are fighting for in the election?
Every ward and village has its own issues. In last four and a half years, I have spoken to people, noted their problems pertaining to basic needs, including water, sanitation, roads and employment. Governments here have failed to cater basic needs. Due to my work, people not only immediately recognize me when I am going door-to-door to meet them but also acknowledge that their issues have been resolved with my intervention.
- How do you see political heavyweights as opponents in the Constituency?
The three candidates Kamalakar (TRS), Ponnam (Congress) and Bandi Sanjay (BJP) have been in public life for quite some time. Kamalakar had been MLA for nine and a half years. Ponnam Prabhakar had been Member of Parliament (MP) for five years. Bandi Sanjay had been corporator for ten years. People know what they have done.
Prabhakar’s own relatives tell me that they won’t vote for him. Bandi Sanjay neither attended corporation nor addressed its issues. People in Karimnagar know that Sanjay has communal issues only. This way of fighting election on religious basis is inappropriate. People will strongly reject it.
So far as sitting MLA is concerned, he grabbed government lands through indirect involvement. He devoured all rocks [of Karimnagar], so his stomach bulged to the extent that people are afraid of seeing it. And no one will vote him. People are extracting as much money from him as possible [during election season].
Watch: Part I of the Interview with Waseem Ahmed, MLA Candidate, Karimnagar