Akhtar-ul-Iman, chief of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM in Bihar, is a familiar face in Kocha Dhaman, from where he is recontesting. He has been the MLA from here twice, having won on an RJD ticket in the previous two elections.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls last year, he quit the RJD and joined the JD(U). The latter nominated him to the Kishanganj LS seat but he created a flutter by deciding to withdraw from the polls, saying he didn’t want to divide the Muslim vote and help the BJP. His decision came too late for the JD(U) to replace him with a new candidate, and this eventually paved the way for an easy victory by Congress candidate Asrarul Haq Qasmi.
A fiery orator with a command of Urdu, Iman is known for taking up issues relating to Muslims in the assembly. During his campaign, he keeps reminding people that it was he who opposed the introduction of Surya namaskar in government schools at the insistence of the BJP. He was also at the forefront of a struggle to secure a study centre of Aligarh Muslim University in Kishanganj.
Iman’s father was an Islamic scholar well-known in the region. “I got into politics during my student days when Moulana Mohammad Hai launched a campaign in 1985 against burglars and dacoits who were troubling this region,’’ Iman told The Indian Express. “Because the police and administration were hand in glove with these thieves, we started to catch them ourselves and reform them.”
He said he became a member of the zilla parishad in 2000 before fighting and winning his first election in 2005. “I resigned in March 2014 because it was suffocating to stay in the RJD. I joined the JD(U) and wanted to fight the Lok Sabha election. Though the JD(U) gave me the ticket, their people had a tacit understanding with the BJP. I didn’t want to have anything to do with that.”
He said that while being in the RJD and the JD(U), he “realised the issues and problems confronting Muslims were never a priority for them”. “Wherever there is a substantial Muslim population, they won’t focus on development because they think this vote bank won’t go anywhere else,’’ he said. “We are used like the band that plays at a wedding. Once the dulha reaches the dulhan’s home, nobody pays the band any attention.”