Owaisi: ‘Salar-e-Millat’ who gave confidence to Muslims (Obituary)

September 30th, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Sep 30 (IANS) Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, who died Monday, was one of India’s prominent Muslim leaders who dominated politics in this southern city for over 40 years.Popularly called “Salar-e-Millat” (commander of the community), he built MIM into a strong political force, giving confidence and voice to the Muslim community.

With his leadership qualities and political vision, Owaisi and his party fought became a role model for Muslims in other states by running a network of professional educational institutions including a medical and an engineering college.

Always clad in his trademark ’sherwani’, the veteran politician, who stood six feet tall, initially had an image of a rabble rouser because of his fiery oratory skills. But he gradually transformed himself into a shrewd politician.

He developed MIM into a force to reckon with in state politics, constantly promoting the cause of Urdu language, literature and culture.

Owaisi, who was 76 when he died, headed the MIM since 1975. He was elected to parliament from Hyderabad for six consecutive terms during two decades (1984-2004).

Now, his eldest son Asaduddin Owaisi represents Hyderabad in the Lok Sabha. His second son Akbaruddin Owaisi is the floor leader of the five-member MIM group in the Andhra Pradesh assembly.

It was Owaisi’s father and eminent lawyer Abdul Wahed Owaisi who revived MIM in 1958. The party was banned after the Hyderabad State was merged with the Indian Union in September 1948. The forces of Mir Osman Ali Khan, who wanted to remain independent, surrendered after a three-day operation by the Indian Army.

Wahed Owaisi, known as Fakhr-e-Millat (pride of the community), remained MIM president till his death in 1975. Salahuddin Owaisi succeeded him as party chief. He was re-elected for six consecutive terms and held the post till his death, steering the party during the last 33 years.

In his political career spanning 50 years, Salahuddin Owaisi held elective posts for 44 years. A veteran of electoral battles through his long career, Salahuddin Owaisi successfully contested elections 13 times, losing only once in the 1977 Lok Sabha polls.

He was first elected to the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) as a councilor in 1960. He made into the assembly in 1962 by trouncing then Congress minister Masooma Begum from a city constituency.

In 1967, he defeated another Congress minister Mir Ahmed Ali Khan. He was elected to the assembly for five terms between 1962-1984.

In an acknowledgement of the strength and influence of MIM, then prime minister Indira Gandhi visited MIM’s headquarters ‘Darussalam’ here in 1980. The Congress was forced to recognise its existence and later even join hands with it.

Till then state Congress leaders used to dismiss it as a communal party.

The 1984 Lok Sabha elections was a turning point in the Hyderabad politics as the MIM chief was elected to parliament. Muslims, who constitute about half of the constituency’s electorate, stood behind him in every election since then as the city saw communal polarisation.

In 2004, he opted out of electoral politics due to failing health and made way for his eldest son and London-educated barrister Asaduddin Owaisi.

Unmindful of criticism that he had a secret alliance with the Congress to retain the few seats in the state capital, he bargained the support to Congress party in other parts of the state for medical college, minority finance corporation, Urdu academy and other institutions.

The party grew from strength to strength under his leadership. The MIM currently has five members in the assembly, one member in the legislative council and one MP, besides a number of councilors and corporators in municipalities and municipal corporations in the state.

Owaisi faced biggest challenge of his political career in 1993 when his close aide and legislator Mohammed Amanullah Khan staged a revolt and split the party.

The MIM chief took revenge when his younger son Akbaruddin trounced Khan in the Chandrayangutta assembly constituency which Khan had represented for five consecutive terms. Khan died of cardiac arrest in 2002.

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