There are not many big names contesting from the Kishanganj parliamentary constituency in this Lok Sabha elections. The dearth of big names is a departure from the usual trend in Kishanganj which has had a history of star faces engaged in contest. The lack of big names this time is primarily due to the demise of renowned leaders of the constituency, like RJD’s Md Taslimuddin and Congress’s Asrarul Haque.
Even BJP’s prominent Muslim face and former MP from the seat, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, is not active in the constituency, having shifted his base to Bhagalpur since 2004.
But Shahnawaz remains etched in public memory in Kishanganj, owing to his close win in 1999. Locals and general voters say the constituency once again is going to witness a “photo finish” as it happened 20 years back when Shahnawaz defeated Taslimuddin by a narrow margin of 8,648 votes in a triangular contest.
A similar contest is building up this time. Congress’s Mohammed Jawaid , JD(U)’s Mehmood Ashraf and AIMIM’s Akhatarul Iman are three major candidates among 14 contestants for the seat where Muslims account for 70 % of the electorate.
In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Kishanganj sprung a surprise when the contest virtually became a walkover for Congress’s Asrarul Haque, after his main rival, JD(U) nominee Akhtarul Iman withdrew his nomination just before the polls.
For Congress, retaining the seat appears to be a tough task this time, as Jawaid , a sitting MLA from Kishanganj, does not have the aura of late MP Maulana Asrarul Haque, who enjoyed huge support among Soorjapuris , a section of local Muslims who claim to be original inhabitants of the district. Locals say Jawaid, himself a Soorjapuri, is hoping to get his party’s base votes and support from the segments of Kishanganj, Thakurganj, Bahadurganj, along with ally RJD’s Muslim-Yadav votes.
“This election is a fight to safeguard India’s democratic fabric and defeat the sense of fear and hatred, which has been propounded by the BJP. The Congress has always believed in secularism and all-round development of people, including in Seemanchal, which was given the AMU study centre during UPA-I. We will not allow divisive forces to succeed and influence youths,” says Jawaid.
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While Yadavs form the biggest chunk of voters among Hindus, Soorjapuris constitute the biggest voter chunk among Muslims, having an estimated strength of 5 lakh in the total electorate of 16.52 lakh voters. Other sections of Muslims are Pachima (those who settled in the district coming from western districts) and Shershahbadis.
Incidentally, the possibility of division of Soorjapuri votes is Congress’s biggest poll worry as it is getting a tough contest from Janata Dal (United) candidate Mehmood Ashraf, also a Soorjapuri, who is seen as a veteran in Seemanchal politics and has a strong support base in his constituency Amaour and Baisi, the two segments that became a part of Kishanganj constituency, following delimitation a few years back.
Here , the poll calculus needs to be understood in the context that JD(U), a BJP ally, is also banking on the 30% Hindu votes constituting the Sadgopes, Vaisya, Rajbanshis and SC/STs. “Hindus votes are crucial and this time, if there is any division in Muslim votes, it could impact the poll result,” said, Sajal Prasad, a professor in Kishanganj.
Many feel the BJP’s absence from the poll arena by allotting the seat to the JD-U, leaving CM Nitish Kumar to showcase his secular image, could help make a dent in Muslim voters in the constituency where religious sentiments are strong.
BJP flags in the constituency are hardly visible, indicating how NDA does not want a strong polarisation to happen in the name of hardline Hindutva and contentious issues like triple talaq, uniform civil code and NRC ( National Register of Citizens).
Majority of MPs in the constituency have been Muslims, except in 1967 when Lakhan Lal Kapoor was elected winner from Prajatantra Socialist Party.
“I am trying to uphold the Ganga-Jamuni culture of Kishanganj and also work for development, better law and order,” says the JD(U) nominee, trashing Congress’s claim that the BJP-led NDA was only playing divisive and politics against minorities. “Our PM wants Muslim youths to hold computer in one hand and Quran in the other. The NDA government has taken a slew of measures for welfare of Muslims,” he says.
Incidentally, the AIMIM ( All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) candidate and former MLA Akhatarul Iman’s bid to campaign hard in the constituency by playing up religious issues, including constitution of regional council for Seemanchal, has the potential of polarising voters. “ It is wrong to say AIMIM is fundamentalist. Neither the BJP nor the Congress has engaged in any welfare for Seemanchal, including Kishanganj,” says Iman.
On Saturday, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, addressing a rally in the area, made sharp attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he would not get another term.
Owaisi addressed three election meetings, at Pothia, Thakurganj and Bahadurganj, during the day.
The AIMIM chief has been a regular visitor to Seemanchal in general and Kishanganj in particular for the last five years.
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Apr 15, 2019 16:04 IST
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