NEW DELHI: The JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine on Monday were quick to pick on Industry and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s rather candid admission that the participation of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in the Bihar Assembly elections will be “good for the BJP”. They hinted at a “behind-the-scenes understanding’’ between BJP and Owaisi.
The sense of unease among the members of the Grand Alliance was evident, particularly as Owaisi has decided to field candidates only in backward Muslim-dominated Seemanchal area of Bihar. A region on which Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Congress have pinned their hopes, Seemanchal is one of the most backward regions in India, with a sizable Muslim population spread over five districts of Kishanganj, Purnia, Araria, Katihar and Supaul, bordering Nepal, Bangladesh and West Bengal.
While Kishanganj is 70 per cent Muslim populated, Araria, Purnia and Katihar have about 40 per cent Muslims each. Supaul constituency has 17 per cent Muslim population.
With the JD(U), RJD and Congress coming together, the BJP was faced with a real challenge. Lalu’s famed and formidable Muslim-Yadav vote-bank, which has mostly stood by him through hail and high-water, in the ups-and-downs of his political career, is in any case the centre-point of this election.
It’s the ‘M’ of Lalu’s M-Y that Owaisi is targeting. Along with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s supporters, the extremely backward, and the Congress, the combine would have trapped the 16.5 per cent Muslim vote in Bihar. But the MIM entry is threatening to breach this fortress; hence the jitters and reactions. RJD spokesperson
Manoj Jha said, “We’ve nothing to fear. Our workers are solidly on the ground in Seemanchal. Our voters will not accept outsiders—they are political and not radical.”
They won’t, however, forget how Owaisi was quite successful in dividing the Muslim vote in the last Assembly elections. In the same way, the entry of Owaisi into the Bihar poll fray has given a boost to the chances of the saffron party in Seemanchal.
It’s the division of the Muslim vote that helped BJP win seats in Seemanchal during the Lok Sabha polls too.