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Published in the 1-15 June 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Split in Muslim votes prevented virtual whitewash of BJP in Bihar
By Soroor Ahmed

The little known yet a very significant fact is that split in Muslim votes in Bihar cost the Secular Front quite dearly. Had the Muslims in Bihar voted en bloc as it is often made out then the Bharatiya Janata Party would not have won more than one seat in the state. This time it won five against 12 in 1999. Its partner the Janata Dal (United) peformed slightly better as it won six seats against 18 in the 1999 election.

No doubt Muslims in general voted for the Secular Front, which comprised Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, Lok Janshakti, CPM and Nationalist Congress Party. But in at least four of the 40 parliamentary constituencies Muslims paved the way for the victory of the BJP candidates. In a couple of other places too Muslims voted for the non-Secular Front candidates but could not ensure the victory of the NDA nominees because the popular mood of the voters was against them.

No doubt Muslims in general voted for the Secular Front, which comprised Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, Lok Janshakti, CPM and Nationalist Congress Party. But in at least four of the 40 parliamentary constituencies Muslims paved the way for the victory of the BJP candidates. In a couple of other places too Muslims voted for the non-Secular Front candidates but could not ensure the victory of the NDA nominees because the popular mood of the voters was against them.

The problem once again is the Muslim dominated constituencies of eastern part of the state. If in 1999 Shahnawaz Hussain (who later became the Union minister) won from the Kishanganj seat, which has 66 per cent Muslims, it was just because of the presence of two more strong Muslim candidates. This time too apart from Taslimuddin, the RJD candidate who finally won by a huge margin of 160497, there was another Muslim candidate, Abdul Jalil Mastan, of the Samajwadi Party. Mastan managed to get 77,356 votes. 

But the split in Muslim votes in Bhagalpur, Katihar, Purnea and Araria proved very costly to the RJD alliance. In the first three the Muslim votes got badly divided because of the presence of the Muslim candidates of a third party while in Araria reserved seat a large number of Muslims voted for the Samajwadi Party nominee, Ramji Das Rishideo, who ended up second.

Take the case of Bhagalpur where Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP, who was till recently the leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly, won by 117,853 votes. Modi defeated the sitting CPM MP, Subodh Roy, who had the support of Congress, RJD and others. But here too Muslim votes for the Bahujan Samaj Party nominee, Parwez Khan alias Pappu Khan, paved the way for Modi’s victory. Khan, managed to get 130,064 votes. Incidentally, almost all the votes he got were of the Muslims.

Similarly, the Nationalist Congress Party general secretary, Mr Tariq Anwar, lost by a slender margin of just 2,565 votes. Here too Mubarak Hussain of the Samajwadi Party proved spoilsport as he cornered 37,584 votes. 

In Purnea too it was the presence of the Muslim candidate, Dr Irshad Khan of Samajwadi Party, which led to the defeat of Pappu Yadav of Lok Janshakti Party by a small margin of 12,883 votes. This seat was finally won by Uday Singh of the BJP. Dr Khan got 47,301 votes.

In Munger parliamentary constituency a large number of Muslims, especially in the urban areas, voted for the Janata Dal (United) candidate, Mr Monazir Hassan. The latter was the minister in the Rabri Devi cabinet till a few days before the election, but switched over to the Janata Dal (United). He was the lone candidate of the party in the state where it contested 24 seats. The rest 16 were left for its partner the BJP.

The Muslims were so aggressive in support for Monazir that on the election day one person of the community even lost his life while two others received injuries. In spite of this Monazir lost by a huge margin of 127,303. 

Though Muslims are not entirely to be blamed for the defeat of RJD candidate, Bhagwan Lal Sahni, from Muzaffarpur it is also a fact that had they voted more aggressively, especially in the urban areas, there would not have been any possibility of the NDA convenor, George Fernandes, winning the seat by 9,693 votes.

It is only in the case with the Buxar seat that it can be said that the BJP’s Lal Muni Choubey, won not because of the division in the Muslim votes. In fact here an Independent, Daddan Yadav, ended up second pushing the RJD’s national spokesman, Shivanand Tiwary, into the third place. Here the Yadav factor was responsible for the defeat of the RJD leader.

The problem with a sizeable section of Muslim voters is that they did not throw their lot behind honest or upright candidates of the community, but behind shady personalities like Dr Irshad Khan, whose name even figured in the CBSE question leak racket in 2003 and Pappu Khan, the notorious character of Bhagalpur. Pappu Khan, Monazir, Irshad Khan and others were never in contest yet Muslims chose to support them. It seems that the people of these areas have no vision for the long-term politics and the religious and social leaders seem to have no role in guiding the community. 
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