Contrary to expectations abound in political circles in Bihar that the Bharatiya Janata Party would give tickets to more Muslim candidates to contest the upcoming assembly polls, the saffron party has fielded only two Muslim candidates so far.
The BJP has, so far, released the names of 153 candidates running for the 160 seats being contested by the party.
In the first list released last week, the BJP had not fielded any Muslim candidates.
However, in the second list, released on Saturday night, the BJP did field sitting legislator Saba Zafar from Amour assembly seat.
In a third list of 11 candidates released on Sunday, the BJP has fielded Abdul Rahman from Kochadhaman assembly constituency in Kishanganj district.
In the 2010 assembly polls, when the BJP was in alliance with the Janata Dal-United, the party had fielded only one Muslim candidate -- Saba Zafar in Purnia district’s Amour constituency. Zafar had won the election.
It was rumoured that this time around the BJP would be putting up more Muslim and Yadav candidates in Bihar to make inroads into the strong vote base of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. It appears that while the rumours about the Yadav candidates were true, with BJP fielding nearly 20 Yadav prospects, the party brought forth only one Muslim candidate.
The Yadav community constitutes 12 to 15 per cent of the total population of Bihar and are known traditionally to be Lalu loyalists.
But in the last Lok Sabha polls Lalu failed to get the famed Yadav support which seemingly moved towards the BJP by way of Narendra Modi.
On the other hand, the Muslim community, that constitutes 16.5 per cent of the state’s population, plays a crucial role in the upcoming polls.
In Bihar’s most backward pockets, plagued with stark levels of poverty, illiteracy and migration, the Muslims community boasts a sizeable percentage of the population.
The Seemanchal region, that comprises of Kishanganj, Purnea, Araria, Katihar and Supaul districts, is particularly dominated by a sizeable Muslim electorate.
A senior BJP leader said that the party has decided to continue with its old policy not to field more Muslims. “There is no benefit of fielding more Muslim candidates in Bihar polls.”
Last year, after the 2014 parliamentary polls, many Muslim leaders joined up with the BJP in Bihar. These leaders included former minister Monajir Hasan to Jamshed Ashraf and former legislator Akhlaq Ahmad.
The BJP also launched the Muslim Bedari Muhim under the leadership of Ashraf to woo Muslims.
According to the BJP leadership, the party’s minority cell had recommended five names to the Central Election Committee of the party for consideration for ticket. But none of them were given tickets.
Ahead of the Bihar polls, controversial former Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar Sabir Ali joined the BJP. Ironically, it was Ali, who BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had called as a ‘man of Dawood Ibrahim’ last year.
Senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who is regarded as a strong contender for the chief minister’s post if the National Democratic Alliance wins in the Bihar polls, claimed a few days ago that Muslims were not ‘allergic’ to the NDA.
“My party would put up more Muslim candidates this time. We (the BJP) and our allies will certainly field more Muslims,” he had said while adding that Muslims have good equation with the Bihar unit of the BJP.
However, the BJP has failed to field more than one candidate in Bihar polls.
“There is nothing new in this sort of behaviour. If the BJP and Modi's much hyped Gujarat model can run without Muslim representation in the state cabinet and since the BJP has not fielded any Muslim candidates in Gujarat, why should it like to field them in Bihar. It is quite simple; the BJP doesn’t think it needs Muslim support. It is a Hindu party, not a secular one,” Irshadul Haque, a Dalit Muslim activist said in Patna.
Arshad Ajmal, a Patna based social activist, said that the BJP has strong reservations about Muslim representation in the legislative assembly.
“Why should the BJP field more Muslims? It has nothing to do with inclusive politics. Modi's slogan of sabka saath sabka vikash (unity with all, development for all) is a jumla (rhetoric) only.”
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