Patna: This promised better ‘treatment’ to the Muslim class when the Bhartiya Janata Party’s national president Rajnath Singh in his recent address apologized to the community for the 2002 Gujarat communal riots saying “I assure you. If there has been any mistake, we will bow down and ask for forgiveness.” He even urged the community to try them “once”.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar went a step even further when he severed 17-year-old ties with the BJP merely when Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi appeared close to being declared as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, insisting he was the “well wisher” of the Muslim community.
However, the ground situation remains quite appalling now with the prominent minority community being a neglected lot in this election. Although every party in Bihar has gone all out to woo the large minority community who accounts for a formidable 16 per cent of the total vote bank — enough to make or break the prospects of any party, the community has got a raw deal in matter of distribution of tickets.
Of the total 120 candidates declared by the mainline parties, the tickets have gone to only 15 Muslim candidates — that is little over 10 per cent of the total share. Of them, a maximum of eight Muslim candidates have been fielded by Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and its allies whereas Nitish Kumar’s JD-U has given tickets to five Muslims. The BJP, on the other hand, is yet to repose faith in the Muslim candidate and has given chance to its lone Muslim face from Bihar, Shahnawaz Hussain among its 30 candidates. BJP’s ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan too has fielded one candidate from its quota of seven seats which it got under the seat-sharing arrangement whereas Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, another ally of the BJP in Bihar, has given ticket to no Muslim candidate.
All eyes were riveted on chief minister Kumar this time who took a huge risk by abruptly ending around two-decade-old association with the BJP in June last year in the hope that the loss of upper caste votes will be compensated by the 16 per cent minority votes. However, he showed rare miserliness in giving tickets to the Muslims and looked a bit “conservative”.
Much against everyone’s expectations, Kumar gave tickets to only five Muslims out of 40 seats the JD-U is contesting this time. What is strange, there remains only two original Muslim faces, Salim Pervez and Shahid Ali Khan among the five Muslim candidates. The rest are turncoats who quit their parent RJD after being denied tickets and joined the JD-U. They include: Ghulam Gauss, Akhtarul Imam and Abu Qaisar.
The raw deal given to the minority community is underlined from the fact that social welfare minister Perveen Amanullah quit the Nitish Kumar cabinet recently while another Muslim leader Sabir Ali who was a JD-U candidate from Sheohar was expelled from the party for praising Modi. Ali who was denied re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha despite a promise by the chief minister was cut up after he did not get support from the party leadership for the Lok Sabha polls and thus took no interest in the contesting polls.
Courtesy: Gulf News