Don’t Want to be Party's Muslim Face, Says Ex-AMUSU Prez & Congress Jale Candidate Usmani

Congress candidate Maskoor Ahmad Usmani during his poll campaign.

Congress candidate Maskoor Ahmad Usmani during his poll campaign.

Usmani said that there is a “huge anti-incumbency wave” in the poll-bound state, adding that even though the Congress party has not won the Jale seat since the 90s, he has faith in the current leadership that has "spoken for the poor and the helpless".

Eram Agha

The former President of Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union, Maskoor Ahmad Usmani, who is contesting from Jale constituency on a Congress’ ticket in Bihar polls, said that he doesn’t want to be seen as a “Muslim face of any political party”. The Congress has fielded 12 Muslim candidates in Bihar.

“I do not want to be seen as a Muslim face of any political party. I am the face of the poor and the youth. I want to be the leader for all and raise the issues that my state and my constituency are ailing from. In AMU, my politics was issue-based, and I am going to replicate that model in this fight as well,” Usmani, the youngest candidate in the Bihar polls, told News18.

For his supporters in the constituency, Usmani is a young and educated leader who was the AMUSU president from 2017-18. During Usmani's time as the president, BJP MP Satish Gautam had sparked controversy overhanging a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the university since 1938.

The three-year-old row has re-surfaced in the Bihar polls as BJP MP from Begusarai, Giriraj Singh, raked it up during the assembly elections’ campaign.

Youngest among five siblings, Usmani grew up in Darbhanga where he attended the Kendriya Vidyalaya School and later joined Dental Studies in AMU (BDS). He shot to prominence with his protests against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (2019). Back in 2018, he had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Home Minister Rajnath Singh, asking them if a Jinnah portrait is such an issue, then there should be a circular for the removal of it. However, there was no response and his tenure expired fifteen days later.

Recently, Giriraj Singh demanded answer from the Congress if their candidate “supports Jinnah”. “The Congress and Mahagathbandhan leaders have to answer the country if the Jale candidate supports Jinnah. They have to tell if they also support Jinnah,” the Union Minister said.

In the last election in 2015, Amit Shah had said that if the saffron party loses in the state polls, then “crackers would be burst in Pakistan”.

Meanwhile, Usmani said that there is a “huge anti-incumbency wave” in the poll-bound state. “The BJP leaders are always in the campaign mode. I don’t want to take them seriously. I have debunked their agenda and more importantly, there is a huge anti-incumbency sentiment in the state, which is why they keep bringing fake issues,” he said.

“These controversies regarding Jinnah and Pakistan have nothing to do with politics. I wrote a letter back in May 2018 to PM Modi and then Home Minister Rajnath Singh regarding the portrait. I got no response and my tenure expired after 15 days. AMU is not my family property and I could not have done anything on my own. At the time controversy erupted my approach in dealing with it was constitutional,” he added.

In the letter, he asked PM Modi for orders, however, there was no response. “Why was he silent? Why didn't he want the portrait to be removed or why there was no circular demanding removal? They just want to create controversy in the media and set a Hindu-Muslim narrative,” he said.

"For my supporters, I am someone who can work for development, bring their children to school, offer better health facilities to them, and address farmers’ issues. The farmers still go to 'sahukar'. They told me that if they apply for loans in Rabi season, they get it in Kharif, and if they ask for loan in Kharif season it comes in Rabi. The farmers get Rs 6,000 as compensation in times of crisis like rains, while a local leader will spend Rs 2 lakhs to get water drained from his house at the time of heavy rains – this is the situation in Bihar,” he said.

The young leader said that he wants to bring in massive improvement in education in his constituency, “In Jale, the literacy rate is 65% and still 35% cannot sign on papers,” he said.

“If it rains in Patna for two days in the Monsoon season, all the roads to the hospitals will be blocked and the water will flood the ICU. They promised for AIIMS, but nothing has happened. I will work for well-equipped hospitals,” he said.

The Congress party has not won the Jale seat since the 90s, but Usmani said that he has faith in the current leadership that has spoken for the poor and the helpless. “The situation of the party was different then, we are in 2020. Things have changed since then. I have full faith in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi,” he said.

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