Why Muslims Won’t Repeat Their 2015 Move of Voting for BJP-JDU In Bihar's Naxal Pockets
During the Bihar assembly polls in 2015, the shift of Muslim voters towards NDA was to dethrone the then MLA and not because they agreed with the BJP's ideology.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others, during an election rally ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in Gaya. (Image: PTI)
Gaya: The BJP-JDU’s strategy during the last assembly elections — to ride on the peculiar shift of Muslim votes towards NDA in the Naxal heartland Bihar — may not prove successful in the first phase of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The local Muslim activists, who were canvassing for the BJP four years ago, are back to their traditional voting patterns and are campaigning against the saffron party.
Munnan Khan, a resident of Gaya's Imamganj, who had campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) all over the district, termed the 2015 assembly elections an "exception."
"The Muslim shift towards NDA was to dethrone the then MLA and not an identification with the BJP ideology," he said.
In South Bihar's border districts of Gaya and Aurangabad, Muslim voters had indeed opted for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but not due to their new-found allegiance towards Nitish Kumar or Narendra Modi. Neither were they overtly fanatic about the then NDA candidate, Jitan Ram Manjhi. It was merely a vote against the then JDU leader and Bihar Assembly Speaker, Uday Narayan Choudhary, who had been the MLA there five times since 1990.
In 2005, Choudhary went on to lose to Manjhi from Gaya's Imamganj seat. With that equation now resolved, the community has gone back to preferring a non-BJP leader.
Moreover, this time the grand alliance has decided to field Upendra Prasad from Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) party against BJP's sitting MP from Aurangabad, Sushil Kumar Singh.
“I had joined the BJP in 2015, immediately after we found that Lalu Prasad Yadav will not field his candidate from the seat. We had to get rid of the sitting MLA who was a JDU candidate. Therefore I was left with the only option of joining BJP. In fact, most communities had united to make sure Choudhary does not win. I would have campaigned for anybody against Choudhary," said Jugnoo Khan who is these days busy travelling from one village to the other campaigning for the grand alliance.
Anu Khatoon happens to be a rare Muslim BJP supporter in the constituency. She also plans to involve herself in the party campaigns. On why she was not swayed by the Muslim community's majority opinion, she said, "I plan to vote on the basis of development in the area. I will not vote based on caste or religion. I feel the Narendra Modi in the Centre has been working hard. I will vote for them."
However, News18 visited Imamganj a day before Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's rally in the area but could not find a single Muslim party worker.
Muslim voters are also dissatisfied with the BJP candidate for his “irresponsible" remarks last year. "There was a fight that took place last year in Dumaria, roughly 21 kilometres away. A Rajput was badly injured and had to be hospitalised. Sushil Kumar Singh had then put out a statement saying the Muslims are involved in communal disharmony," said Nanhe Khan, a local resident.
Gangadhar Kumar, BJP district head from Imamganj, insisted that the Muslim community will vote for the BJP like it did in 2015. "There have been no Hindu-Muslims conflicts in the place. Hindu BJP party workers operate hand-in-hand with the Muslim leaders. Nitish Kumar has always maintained that communal harmony is his utmost priority," he said.
While the BJP nominee Singh, the son of former MP Ramnaresh Singh alias Lootan Singh, is banking on the saffron party’s vote bank – Rajput, Bhumihar, Brahmin besides its traditional voters belonging to OBC and others – HAM candidate Upendra, a former MLC, is harping on KoeriYadav-Muslim voters. After Rajputs, Koeris and Yadavs are in sizable number in the constituency.
“In addition to Yadav-Muslim vote bank of the RJD, we will get the benefits of two other castes — Koeris and Mushahars. HAM (Secular) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi belongs to Musahar caste. Manjhi is contesting from the Gaya (SC) seat, which will impact the Aurangabad seat as well,” said a staunch supporter of Upendra, who has already launched campaign in the constituency.
While Upendra is a new face, Sushil has represented the seat thrice in the Lok Sabha in 1998, 2009 and 2014. While he won the elections in 2014 as BJP candidate, he got elected to the Parliament in 2009 and 1998 on a JD(U) ticket.
The BJP had fielded a candidate from this seat for the first time in 2014 in the last few decades and won by a margin of 66,364 votes. Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency comprises Kutumba and Rafiganj assembly segments in Aurangabad district, and Imamganj, Gurua and Tekari in Gaya district.
The constituency has already been declared sensitive due to Maoist activities.
Three security personnel were killed and many others injured during an attack carried out by the Maoists in Aurangabad during the 2014 general elections. In addition, the security personnel had detected six cane bombs weighing 30kg each from Banke Bazar under Imamganj assembly segment, which is part of the Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency, during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
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