Kolkata: Marking his entry into the election fray in West Bengal on a two-day visit, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has pledged his party's support to Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui, influential Muslim cleric and rival of Trinamul Congress supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to create a new political alliance to tap the Muslim votebank which is nearly one-third of the state's population.
Owaisi dared the Chief Minister to explain the exodus of her party leaders to the BJP and the saffron party's rise in the state in absence of his party. He was responding to the charge that the entry of his party divides the Opposition vote and benefits the BJP.
Landing at the Kolkata Airport on Sunday morning he quietly headed to Furfura Sharif in Hooghly which commands huge influence among the Muslims in South Bengal. The AIMIM chief met Siddiqui, the religious shrine's secretary who aspires to float a political outfit for Muslims, hunting for an ally to contest the Bengal polls in wake of the large-scale defection by his party's state leadership to the Trinamul Congress.
"We have started our party's work here. Siddiqui is our elder brother. We will work under his leadership also. We will support whatever decision he takes. What he is doing is historic," Owaisi said while remaining silent on the seat-sharing equation.
Slamming the CM for linking the AIMIM with the BJP, Owaisi said, "I challenge the TMC to reveal where was Mamata when Gujarat was burning. We did not contest the Lok Sabha polls here last year. Still the BJP won 18 seats. How could it happen? What bargain did you have then? Now you can not tackle the BJP. So many leaders are leaving your party to join the BJP. Are they asking us for their move? She needs to explain these."
He underlined that underdevelopment of Bengal and political empowerment of weaker sections would be among the issues in the polls.
TMC MP Sougata Roy said, "AIMIM's entry here to help the BJP will not make any difference because the Muslims, who are mostly Bengali-speaking, are with Didi." Hooghly BJP MP Locket Chatterjee claimed, "Except the BJP, neither any Khan nor Quraishi not even an Owaisi can form government here this time."