Updated: November 24, 2018 7:19:55 am
The JD(U), which has been trying to win back the support of minorities after its return to the BJP-led NDA last July, seems to have failed to attract Muslim supporters during its district level meetings, which culminated with a meet in Patna Thursday. Muslims constitute around 17 per cent of the electorate in Bihar.
Though the JD (U) engaged its top Muslim faces — minority cell state president Mohammed Salam, Rajya Sabha MP Kahkashan Parbeen, MLC and former Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi, and senior leader Ghulam Gous — none of the meetings, which were held at over 30 district headquarters over the past fortnight, could gather more than 1,500 people.
The party had prepared about 600 kg mutton biryani for its Patna meet Thursday, but was in for a shock when only about 500 people turned up for the function. This despite the venue, SKM Memorial Hall, being close to several Muslim-majority residential areas. A JD(U) source said: “We had cooked mutton biryani to attract maximum people. Since Patna district programme was being organised in heart of the state capital, we had expected a good turnout. We had to finish off the stock by offering it to sundry workers and even uninvited visitors.”
Later, JD(U) organisational general secretary R C P Singh was left red-faced when someone in audience asked him to cut short his speech.
“Bas ho gaya ab (end your speech now),” said someone from the audience, as several people rose from their chairs to leave. Though Singh continued for a while, the organisers of the meet were asked to start lunch to escape further embarrassment. JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar, who was present at the function, told The Indian Express: “The poor presence has more to do with lack of organisational efforts and logistics support than our commitment to the welfare of minorities. We have introduced a host of education and welfare schemes for Muslims. There are people who are interested in making malls but we are the the ones who fenced cemeteries.”
Another JD (U) leader said people would not come for a function if transportation was not arranged. “We cannot expect a spontaneous crowd in non-election time,” the leader said. The JD (U) has been trying to play up its development card and its promise of “no compromise with communalism” in order to win back the support of Muslims — the party failed to impress in the recent Lok Sabha bypolls in Araria, and the Assembly bypolls in Bhabhua, Jokihat and Jehanabad.
It has its task cut out in next year’s general elections, especially in the minority-dominated Seemanchal region comprising Araria, Purnia, Katihar and Kishanganj, despite winning three of the four Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 polls.
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