Samastipur MLA Akhtarul Islam Shaheen entered RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s home on Patna’s 10 Circular Road Tuesday and casually checked the schedule for the grand alliance legislature party meeting. Though he wore a relaxed look, he made it clear how much his victory meant to him.
The high-profile seat had pitched him against BJP heavyweight Renu Kushwaha, whom he defeated by 34,000 votes. Shaheen said he should get credit for winning by that margin. In the previous election, Shaheen had defeated Ramnath Thakur, Karpoori Thakur’s son and currently a JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP.
Shaheen is one of 24 Muslim MLAs freshly elected in Bihar, the highest since the bifurcation of the state. The 2010 assembly had 19 Muslims. The highest ever was 34 in the undivided Bihar of 1985, making up over 10½ per cent of the then assembly of 325 members. The current 24 Muslim MLAs represent just under 10 per cent of the 243-member assembly.
Eleven of them, or nearly half the 24, are from Shaheen’s RJD, including Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Faraz Fatmi from the Mithilanchal belt where the grand alliance routed the opposition on the strength of a Muslim-Yadav combination and an apparent shift from among the upper-caste Brahmin vote, considered a BJP constituency.
Put together, the grand alliance has 22 Muslim MLAs, which will give it flexibility of options while selecting Muslim ministers. The Congress has six Muslims among its 27 MLAs. Its Muslim representation is higher than that of the JD(U), which has five among its 71. The JD(U)’s five include Mujahid Alam who toppled sitting MLA Akhatarul Imam in a contest of Muslims in Kocha Dhaman. Iman had won the seat as an RJD candidate in 2010 but has since moved to Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM and is that party’s face in Bihar.
Of the two Muslim MLAs outside of the grand alliance, one is with the BJP and one with the CPI(ML) — Mahboob Alam from Balrampur. The CPI(ML) won two other seats.
The BJP’s MLA is Mohammed Javed, who retained his seat, Kishanganj. Another sitting BJP MLA, Saba Zafar, failed to retain Amour, which went to Abdul Jalil of the Congress. The BJP had fielded only these two Muslims, leaving it to its allies to represent that community. None of the five MLAs elected from the BJP’s three partners is a Muslim.
Prominent Muslim faces among the RJD MLAs include Iliyas Hussain (former minister), Faisal Rahman, Shamim Ahmed and Faiyaz Ahmed, apart from Siddiqui and Fatmi. The JD(U)’s Muslim MLAs include Sarfuddin who defeated HAM’s Lovely Anand with a narrow margin, Sarfaraz Alam and Naushad Alam, besides Mujahid. Most of the JD(U)’s and the Congress’s Muslim winners are from the Seemanchal region.
“The Congress is happy about having rediscovered its old cadre vote of Muslims, upper castes and Dalits,” said Prem Chandra Mishra, AICC media panellist
RJD national spokesperson Manoj Jha said his party maintained a very good social combination in winning 80 of the 101 seats it contested.