India will be poorer without its core secular values, AIMIM’s  leader Asaduddin Owaisi says, rubbishing charges that he and his party as communal.

“The sole factor that unites and keeps india strong is the pluralism and diversity of this great nation” the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

“The ethos of this country are secularism, diversity and pluralism, which strengthens our country and that has to be strengthened come what may” the Lok Sabha member said further.

The London-educated Owaisi says it is wrong to call the AIMIM a Muslim party.

“AIMIM may be a political party that takes up the cause of not only Muslims but also Dalits and other weaker sections. It’s not a Muslim party.”

“It undoubtedly wants the development of the largest minority of the land but to brand it a party of a specific religion is totally wrong.”

“Who has given them (critics) the right to call ME secular or communal or anti-national? These people do not hold intellectual rights over nationalism or secularism.”

“India is a free country and I have the right to contest elections. These baseless allegations won’t stop my political journey” said Owaisi.

Owaisi justified his decision for his party to contest 6 of the 243 seats within the ongoing state assembly elections and denied allegations that he was in the field to split the anti BJP vote.

While acknowledging that the BJP and other rightwing groups were his main foes, Owaisi isn’t ready to play second fiddle to the alleged secular camp.

“That does not imply I play second fiddle to any or all these political parties and go on blindly and forget about my real development agenda” he said.

The MP fumes at calls for a ban on the AIMIM.

“Here is a political party doing everything to create more confidence to strengthen Indian democracy. You can disagree with my politics. You have got all the right, but do not say do not participate in democracy.”

“If you do, what’s the message you’re sending to people who believe in democracy? What’s the path left then?”

The AIMIM has been expanding outside its traditional base in Hyderabad. It created an impressive debut within the Maharashtra assembly elections last year by winning 2 seats.

“By our sheer participation (in electoral politics) for fifty seven years, we’ve strengthened Indian democracy.”

“We have voiced our concerns in assemblies, municipalities, panchayats and parliament.”

Owaisi countered the argument that parties just like the AIMIM were accountable for Hindu-Muslim divide.

“The so-called secular parties do not have the guts to mention that polarization is going on within the majority community, mainly within the upper castes.”

“Because it is politically incorrect for secular parties to make such a statement, they (target) Muslims or AIMIM.”

“The mobilization has happened on the other side, not on the Muslim side. That is why they (BJP) won 280 (Lok Sabha) seats. There is nothing like a Muslim vote bank. It is a myth,” he said.

Owaisi criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not hitting out at party colleagues for making hate speeches.

He additionally questioned what happened to Modi’s assurance to a delegation of islamic scholars that they could call on him even at midnight.

Referring to the September 28th lynching of a Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he ate beef, Owaisi wondered why did not Modi call up the victim’s family?

“This is a family whose son is protecting the Indian skies from external enemies” he added, referring to Akhlaq’s son who is with the Indian Air Force.