By T S Sudhir
Move over Salman Rushdie, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) has a new Salman to practise darts on. Salman Khan aka Sallu Bhai.
Ever since Salman Khan kept his commitment to indulge in kite-flying with Narendra Modi and what’s worse, called him a “good man”, the party from Hyderabad has been seething with anger. Little surprise considering Modi is all negative for the Owaisi brothers – Asaduddin and Akbaruddin.
But what’s surprising is that the MIM has chosen to risk asking its followers not to watch `Jai Ho’ that releases this Friday, considering Salman is like God to many youth from the Old city area, who copy his physique, mannerisms and hairstyle. MIM now wants them to change their approach to Salman Khan – from `Maine Pyar Kiya’ to `Maine Pyaar kyon kiya’.
At a public meeting four days back, party president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi was all fire and brimstone. Targeting the actor with choice expletives, Owaisi dismissed him as a mere “nachle gaane wala actor”. Asking the audience not to watch his “behudapana”, Owaisi said, “Naam Salman rakhne se koyi Salman nahi ban jaata, Salman to Rushdie bhi hai.”
The BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu has dismissed Owaisi’s outburst as a matter of no consequence, accusing him of suffering from Modi-phobia. It indeed does seem surprising that the Owaisis would get so perturbed and worked up over a mere endorsement of Modi by an actor. Are the Owaisis so insecure in their citadel of the Old city area of Hyderabad that they think that a certificate from Salman Khan to Modi would be enough for the BJP to make significant inroads?
It was also surprising to see the elder Owaisi borrow a leaf out of his younger brother Akbaruddin’s book, in terms of style and rhetoric. Remember, a year ago, Owaisi junior had got into trouble with his alleged communal remarks that were seen as damaging communal harmony. For someone who otherwise stresses on development agenda in his constituency, Asaduddin Owaisi’s vitriol seemed out of sync.
That Salman did not bother to temper his positive remarks about Modi has irked the MIM leaders even more. He made the point in a TV interview that if Modi has been acquitted by the courts, why should he say sorry. That’s a position unacceptable to the MIM. The party decided subsequently that it will not speak on the issue, since that will be akin to giving Salman Khan more publicity, something its leaders decided he did not deserve.
Asaduddin Owaisi explained that even if it had been any other actor, he would have reacted the same way, since Modi is anathema. “It did not have to do with his being a Muslim,” he said. Owaisi described Modi as a “kaatil” and “zaalim” in his speech, an attempt clearly to polarise the Muslim vote in Hyderabad against the BJP’s Hindutva brigade. The response to `Jai Ho’ over the weekend will show how much the Dabangg star is Wanted by his Hyderabadi fan and whether they make a distinction between real and reel life.