The Sunset offered some respite after an unusually warm day (October 17) in this part of the year in Gaya’s Sherghati Assembly constituency. Outside a small eatery at Hamzapur locality Noor-uz-zaman, Owais, Iftekhar, Hamza along with half a dozen Muslim youths were discussing politics. That was just a day before the visit to the constituency by leader of opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav which evoked a tremendous response.
The youths were discussing whom should Muslims support in the coming election. Most of these youths in early twenties were sympathetic towards Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM and they stressed that Muslims should vote for it. Yet, one participant strongly refuted the idea arguing that such move may split Muslim votes and facilitate the victory of NDA.
The fear is not without reason especially in this constituency where more than one Muslim candidate contested in 2010. The RJD stalwart Shakil Ahmad Khan, who got 18623 votes was pushed to third spot even as five other Muslim candidates jointly got 10689 votes. The JDU’s Vinod Prasad Yadav who was declared winner got 25447 votes.
However, one of the AIMIM supporter fought back: is RJD’s nominee Manju Agarwal any different from other candidates? He pointed towards her past association with Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of RSS. Winnability factor, that is social equation, appears to be the main reason behind Manju getting ticket. The sitting MLA Vinod Prasad Yadav has kept his ground intact by splitting the MY equation of RJD. Manju had got 29,671 votes in 2015 Assembly election when she fought as an independent candidate after she distanced herself from the saffron camp.
As like other constituencies where Muslims have sizeable population, AIMIM has fielded Masroor Alam in Sherghati. Typically, unlike middle aged and elder Muslims who have no doubt in their minds in rooting for RJD, a section of Muslim youths of Bihar are getting attracted towards the community centric politics. It is another matter that this time AIMIM is not alone in such pursuit. Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), a Kerala based outfit is also in the fray.
SDPI ally Jan Adhikar Party has fielded late Shakil Ahmad Khan’s nephew Umair Khan alias Tikka Khan on this seat. Ironically, both these so-called flag-bearers of Muslim representation are part of two different alliances fighting against each other on a number of seats, effectively nullifying the prospect of each other. They blame each other of having understanding with BJP.
Shadab Khan, a supporter of Tikka Khan, termed Masroor Alam a parachute candidate who had surfaced just ahead of election. He was of the view that since Tikka Khan has been working hard for the last few years, he deserves the support of the community.
However, the visit by the leader of opposition, Tejashwi Yadav has upset the apple cart. With the election in Sherghati a week away (Oct 28) a sudden surge in support in favour of the RJD-led Grand Alliance can be easily observed. The presence of two Muslim candidates from relatively weak parties, JAP and AIMIM, have prompted Muslims to abandon both Tikka Khan and Masroor and vote in favour of Manju– more because of her party, RJD.
At a rally in Sherghati on Sunday, that is October 18, Tejashwi stressed ‘Agar sirf CM banna hota to iman bechkar BJP ke sath Bihar me sarkar bana lete lekin ye log dharm ke naam par vote mangte hain, ye mujhe pasand nahi, Bihar me BJP ko ghusne nhi dena hai …’ (‘Had I wanted to become CM, I would have joined hand with BJP. But they seek votes in the name of religion which I don’t like. We wont allow BJP to enter Bihar…’).
A Gaya based analyst on condition of anonymity pointed out, “This is the reflection of Tejashwi’s assertion of his uncompromising stand towards BJP. A few JDU leaders belonging to the community are spreading rumours in the region that RJD has tacit understanding with BJP and both parties might have a post poll alliance. The issue of Manju Agarwal is being blown out of proportion to fuel the rumour mill.”
However, community leaders are of the view that the background of candidates hardly matters. Prominent social activist Naiyer Fatmi observed, “If a party such as Shiv Sena can run a secular government what is the problem with Manju Agarwal as far as she works under the leadership of Tejashwi. First it is crucial that RJD wins, then there will be opportunity to address other grievances. The community votes for RJD because of its unflinching commitment towards secularism.”
Speculations will not be enough to break the bond of Muslims with RJD unless the party leaves this path, he concluded.
(Shams Khan is contributing editor at the TheNewsweb)