In Kishanganj, site of an upcoming Aligarh Muslim University centre, so many Muslims are hoping to contest the Lok Sabha election that they could divide the 73 per cent Muslim votes to the benefit of the BJP.
The Congress and the JD(U), which are vying for the credit for introducing the AMUU centre, are set to field Muslim candidates while the RJD too has a contender even though it is looking at an alliance with the Congress. And if the Congress decides to renominate its sitting MP, Asrarul Haque, it could lead to rebellion.
The resentment showed at the AMU function, where former Amaur (Purnia) MLA Jalil Mastan and Bahadurganj (Kisanganj) MLA Tausif Alam called on the party to replace Asrarul. They went on to invite Sonia Gandhi to contest from Kishanganj to “save” one of the two Bihar seats the party has. The other is Sasaram, held by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
Mohammed Khalid, one of many Muslims who had gathered to listen to Sonia, said Kishanganj’s Muslims do not always vote as a block and can sense at least three or four powerful Muslim leaders entering the poll fray. “The Congress has certainly played the AMU card at the right time and it is also true that Nitish should share the credit for making 224 acres available free to the centre,” Khalid said. “But the Congress’ Kishanganj MLA Dr Javed Azad and even Tausif Alam. and the RJD’s Kochadhaman MLA Akhtarul Imam too want to contest.”
In the last election, the JD(U)’s Mehmood Ashraf had put up a tough contest against Israrul Haque. And Akhtarul is said to be fancying his chances even though the RJD-Congress alliance is almost final. The RJD has a powerful leader in Mohammed Taslimuddin, who won the seat in 2004 before losing the last election.
Locals say Hindus, in contrast, do tend to vote as a block here. The BJP’s hopes of polarising the Hindu vote will also hinge on the Narendra Modi factor and the split with the JD(U).
Dilip Jaiswal is a strong contender for the ticket. Jaiswal, who owns a medical college and hospital in Kishanganj, is popular locally on account of the free treatment it has offered the poor.
Until 2004, it was the BJP that used to contest the seat for the then alliance. In 2009, the JD (U) convinced the BJP to concede the seat. The BJP has three of Bihar’s seats, Purnia, Araria and Katihar, part of the Seemanchal region that includes Kishanganj.
“Narendra Modi is surely a factor here. This seat anyway sees polarisation of Hindu votes,” said Mahesh Singh, a Kishanganj shopkeeper.
The Congress says it is confident about retaining the seat. “The secular votes will get polarised in favour of the Congress-led alliance at Kishanganj or elsewhere,” said AICC national media panellist Chandan Yadav. “The AMU was a long-standing demand of the area that has been fulfilled.”
The JD(U) too claims credit for making the 224 acres available free. “Everyone knows how much the state government contributed to the centre,” said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. “We faced hurdles but finally got the land.”
Nitish, incidentally, attended the function after getting an invitation at the last minute. This has made him the object of ridicule from BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi, his former deputy CM. He said Nitish had “not thought of his self-respect” in attending the function. “The JD(U) virtually demanded the invitation. The CM attending the function did not behove his chair.”