During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, a Muslim voter in Siwan had explained why it didn’t interest them that the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) was aligned with the BJP. As reasons, he listed that the varsity uniform given by the Nitish government was the only dress his son had ever owned and said he had no problems with the BJP, “the B team” of the JD(U).
That was the time when the popularity of Nitish Kumar, still in his first term as Chief Minister and riding high on the changes he had ushered into the tired landscape of Bihar, was at its peak. That election, the NDA under him won 32 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. within the Assembly polls that followed next year, Nitish returned to power with 206 of 243 seats.
It’s not the same Nitish, neither is it the same NDA, with the BJP now enjoying equal billing due to the JD(U). More importantly, the extent of Muslim alienation from the Modi-led government at the Centre threatens to abrade on Nitish. Even within the 2015 Assembly polls, alongside his popularity waning, Nitish had managed to retain the support of Muslims (17% of the population) largely on account of Mahagathbandhan partners, RJD and Congress. the actual fact that he did a turnaround in 2017 and went back to BJP is seen as a stab within the rear by the community.
The JD(U)s Muslim candidates across Bihar
Since then, Nitish, who once made a public show of single-handedly standing within the trail of Modi while still within the NDA, has relegated the lead role within the alliance in Bihar to the Prime Minister. within the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, that the NDA swept with 39 of 40 seats in Bihar, the Congress could win just Kishanganj seat mainly thanks to its over 70% Muslim population. The AIMIM was third therein seat.
The JD(U) that when had leaders like Ali Anwar, Dr. Ejaj Ali, and Dr. Shakil Ahmed in its ranks now has virtually no big Muslim names apart from MLC and former Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi.
With 10 of the 115 constituencies it’s contesting as an area of the NDA falling in Muslim-dominated areas, the JD(U) has been highlighting steps taken for the advantage of the community within the past 15 years of the Nitish government. the ten seats are Sikta (candidate Firoz Ahmed Khursheed); Sheohar (Saifuddin); Araria (Shagufta Azeem); Thakurganj (Naushad Alam); Kochadhaman (Mohammed Mujahid); Amour (Saba Zafar); Darbhanga Rural (Faraz Fatmi); Kanti (Mohammed Jamal); Marhoura (Altaf Raju); and Mahua (Aasma Parveen).
JD(U) national spokesperson KC Tyagi said: “Right from the fencing of cemeteries to starting the Talimi Markaj (bridge course for school drop-outs) to skill development programs like Hunar and Auzar, Nitish Kumar has done tons for the community. The coaching center at Haj Bhavan and a couple of other districts could also be an excellent education model. it’s up to the Muslim community to form a choice if they have only slogans or some concrete work.” (Read an Express interview with Tyagi)
Former JD(U) leader Anwar, who now heads an apolitical forum called the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mehaz, said he left the party because of the BJP’s increasing influence. “There is now complete distrust with Nitish. His return to NDA has hurt Muslims. The BJP’s aggressive politics has further distanced Muslims from the JD(U),” he said, adding that the Mehaz features a presence during a minimum of twenty-four seats and can influence votes there.
While the RJD-Congress still remains the prime claimant to the Muslim choose Bihar, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi is predicted to pick up an honest share within the Seemanchal belt of Kishanganj, Purnea, Araria, and Katihar, further eating into Nitish’s support. AIMIM Bihar youth president Adil Hasan Azad said: “We are talking about the event of Seemanchal. We did well within the last Lok Sabha elections and opened our account within the Assembly polls. We are seeking a positive vote.”
RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tewary said they were confident of minority votes standing behind the Grand Alliance. “They support us thanks to the secular credentials of Lalu Prasad. We don’t oscillate from one camp to a special like Nitish Kumar. it’s just a matter of convertibility (of this support) into winning digits. With the Congress and Left, we have a strong alliance. And with the LJP playing its double game (supporting the BJP, and opposing the JD-U), we’ll upset the NDA’s calculations.”
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