Indira Parwat has come from Varanasi to Araria in almost every election for the past two decades to campaign for prominent Seemanchal leader Mohammed Taslimuddin or his son Mohammed Sarfaraz Alam. The 85-year-old, whose husband was killed in 1960s in political violence, calls herself “muhboli behan (sister)” of former Union minister Taslimuddin, who died last year. “Taslimuddin Saheb stood by my family all these years. I am trying to do my bit. I would visit villages and ask people to vote for his son,” she said.
The RJD has fielded Mohammed Shahnawaz Alam, youngest of three sons of Taslimuddin, for the bypoll to Jokihat Assembly seat that fell vacant after Taslimuddin’s second son Sarfaraz was elected MP from Araria in the by-election after his death. Sarfaraz, who was JD (U) MLA from Jokihat, had switched over to the RJD to hold on to the seat his father represented. Between them, Taslimuddin and Sarfaraz have won Jokihat seat nine times. The seat, which has about 2.8 lakh voters, about 70 per cent of them Muslims, goes to polls on May 28.
Shahnawaz had to fight hard to get RJD’s ticket for the bypoll. Sarfaraz wanted a ticket for his son Mohammed Gulab Alam. Shahnawaz reportedly met RJD chief Lalu Prasad in jail with his mother Bibi Akhtari Begum and pushed his case.
Mohammed Wuddod Alam, nephew of Taslimuddin, said: “It is true that Sarfaraz bhai wanted his son to contest, but the matter was sorted out and now he is campaigning for his brother.” He said the real issue in the election was Nitish Kumar quitting the Grand Alliance with RJD and Congress. “Then deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav had faced only an FIR in the IRCTC case and that was touted as the reason for Nitish to quit the alliance. Now, how can he justify giving a ticket to Murshid Alam, who faces several criminal charges?,” said Alam.
The RJD candidate’s another relative said, “Everyone knows about Taslim Saheb’s acceptance in both communities. While several places witnessed riots after the demolition of Babri Masjid, Jokihat did not. This is because of Taslim Saheb’s personality.” Coming close on the heels of the NDA’s loss in the Lok Sabha bypoll at Araria, the Jokihat by-election is also a prestige battle for Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar. Nitish, who was in Jokihat to address a public meeting Thursday, listed achievements of his government, including the budgetary allocation of Rs 800 crore for minority welfare. He reminded the voters about how his government maintained communal harmony.
Some local residents, however, feel JD(U)’s Murshid Alam would give little contest to Taslimuddin’s son. “Murshid may well be a Kulhaiya (EBC) Muslim like his rival Shahnawaz, but he does not have a good image and does not belong to Jokihat. Had Nitish Kumar fielded a better candidate, there could have been a fight,” said Mohammed Irshad. Nitish, however, appeared confident. He told the meeting: “The candidate was selected after receiving feedback from minister and the party’s district in-charge Bijendra Prasad Yadav and our allies… Jita dijiyega to prasannata milegi (I will be happy if you make him win).”