Purnia: All political parties in the Seemanchal area of Bihar, comprising four Lok Sabha constituencies – Purnia, Katihar, Kishanganj and Araria – are trying hard to woo Muslim voters. Kishanganj, situated on Indo-Bangladesh border, has over 70% Muslim voters, followed by Araria 45%, Katihar 30% and Purnia 23%. All the four constituencies will go to polls on April 24.
According to census figures, 77.7% of the electorate in Jokihat assembly segment of Araria parliamentary constituency are Muslims. In Araria assembly segment, the figure is 62.3% and in Sikti 61%. Three senior Muslim leaders, Ashrarul Haq, Tariq Anwar and Mohd Taslimuddin, are contesting from Kishanganj, Katihar and Araria parliamentary constituencies, respectively. In Purnia constituency too, there are four Muslim candidates, including Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Shamsher Alam, Samajwadi Party’s Mansoor Alam, Bahujan Mukti Party’s Shahid Akhtar, who resigned as deputy SP last month, and Syed Shah Iqbal of Bharatiya Ekta Manch Party.
Akhtarul Iman, the JD (U) candidate from Kishanganj who retired from contest to facilitate unity of Muslim votes in favour of secular candidates, has impacted the Muslim psyche in Seemanchal belt. A visit to different parts of the region and talks with common Muslim voters indicate consolidation of Muslim votes. Two villagers from Baneli – Mohammad Shamid and Mohammad Abbas – said earlier they used to vote for the Congress. Since no Muslim candidate has been fielded by Congress in Araria, they may prefer ‘teer’, the election symbol of Janata Dal (U).
Uday Singh Pappu, the BJP candidate from Purnia said he had got a share of Muslim votes in two previous elections and this year too, he expected to get 20,000 to 25,000 Muslim votes despite Iman effect on the Muslim voters. Tariq Anwar, the NCP candidate from Katihar who has been contesting since 1977, said majority of the Muslim votes would go in his favour since his alliance represents the secular forces.
Ashrarul Haq, the Congress candidate from Kishanganj, is quite hopeful of getting 90% of the minorities’ votes because of “my goodwill as maulana.” He claimed he had opened 250 modern madrassas in the constituency. Even Muslim girls are getting educated in schools opened by him, he said.
In the absence of Muslim candidates from either the JD (U) or BJP, RJD candidate from Araria and former Union minister Mohammad Taslimuddin is hopeful of getting all the Muslim votes. Keeping in mind the Muslim votes, the BJP has fielded two Muslims candidates in the by-elections to the Baisi and Kochadhaman assembly seats (in Kishanganj LS seat) scheduled for April 24. Congress leaders Sadanand Singh and Premchandra Mishra, while talking to TOI, denied the charge of CM Nitish Kumar that Congress was behind engineering the retirement of Akhtarul Iman in Kishanganj. But, they admitted the Muslim votes are getting consolidated because of Narendra Modi’s frequent visits to Seemanchal. They said Iman effect may extend to other constituencies in North Bihar too.
It is perhaps Iman effect which is compelling the leaders to tell Muslim electorate about their achievements on minority welfare front. At his election meetings in the Muslim-dominated areas of Purnia, the chief minister told people his government had ordered fencing of over 8,000 graveyards, while former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi claimed, as finance minister he had sanctioned money for fencing of the graveyards.