A green carpet is laid out from the stage to the helipad as children, women and men hover around, waiting for AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
Party workers and supporters steadily fill the small ground at Narkali Haat of Kochadhaman Vidhan Sabha in Kishanganj, where AIMIM’s Izhar Asfi is contesting against sitting JD(U) MLA Mujahid Alam and RJD’s Shahid Alam in the Bihar elections.
Waiting among the swelling crowd for the leading Muslim politician’s chopper is Azharul Haq, 60. “We want change this time. We have voted for other parties in the past but want to give AIMIM a chance this time.” This time, the AIMIM is contesting with the Samajwadi Janata Dal (Democratic), Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and BSP.
Behind the stage is 22-year-old Mohammed Asif Mustafa who says Owaisi is the only leader who raised issues like the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Parliament. The final-year graduate student says Owaisi holds “the promise of a bright future for the youth”.
On the stage, local leaders extol the “virtues of AIMIM and remind the crowd of failures of other political parties”.
Owaisi’s forceful and frequent interventions in Parliament over the CAA seem to have struck a chord with voters in this part of the state. Mohammed Zakir says it is Owaisi who spoke against the “anti-Muslim” law and he is the one who will fight for the safety and well-being of the minorities in the country.
As the wait gets longer, 11 year-old Adnan Partapgarhi takes over the stage. The little poet recites poems on social harmony amid cheers.
Owaisi’s helicopter lands soon and the ground by then is teeming with no less than 10,000 people.
Addressing the gathering, Owaisi said the JD(U) is sitting with BJP this time. “The JDU-RJD alliance deceived you in 2015. Congress and RJD are responsible for this. They will come to you again in the name of Mahagathbandhan, but give them a befitting reply. We have forged an alliance in Bihar with Kushwaha as our CM candidate. We hope Bihar will shower blessings on the alliance and he will become the CM.”
On talks that CAA would not help his case, Owaisi asked the crowd if he should raise it or not, the crowd responded with a resounding ‘Yes’.
Responding to the charge that his party ends up dividing votes that ultimately helps BJP, he said, “This is a very old accusation against us. In the last Lok Sabha elections, the RJD-Congress won just one seat out of 40. Here also (Kishanganj), our candidate (Akhtarul) Iman bagged 3 lakh votes. Where is the question of spoiling? Imtiaz Jaleel won the Aurangabad seat, where Shiv Sena had been winning for 23 years. Now Congress is in alliance with Shiv Sena, sharing power in Maharashtra. That doesn’t concern people. This is the hypocrisy of so-called secular parties. If you support them, then you are secular and if you don’t you are branded communal. In the last election, JDU sought the vote to defeat BJP and they are now sitting with them. Isn’t RJD-Congress responsible for this?”
He further said: “We are willing to work with any political party which will ensure the welfare of weaker sections along with the minorities.”
On his party’s plans to fight the West Bengal elections next year, he said “We definitely have a presence there. We will set up a proper structure in Bengal. We will figure out how it works.”
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