The battle of Bihar has exposed the flag bearers of secularism as much it has dented the image of right-wing ultra nationalists. The secular-communal debate has taken a new twist with Shiv Sena jumping into the fray after Asaduddin Owaisi, the fire-spewing chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, decided to field candidates from the Muslim-dominated Seemanchal region, ostensibly to harm the prospects of so-called “secular” alliance of the Janata Dal (U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress.
If Owaisi is out to poach into Muslim votes of the “secular” flank, the Sena will try to cut into the Hindu votes of the BJP, with which its share power in Maharashtra and has a deep rooted ideological bond going several decades into the past.
In fact, the Sena is so determined to indirectly help the BJP’s rivals that its president Uddhav Thackeray, who seldom ventures outside Mumbai to address political rallies, is planning to visit Bihar to mobilize support for his party. Sena is expected to field a whole lot of BJP deserters or upper caste candidates, something that could harm the BJP.
Sena’s decision to jump into the Bihar polls is seen as the sign of its growing bitterness with the BJP. In Maharashtra, hardly a day passes when the two allies are not fighting with each other on key policies, the latest being the issue of meat ban which was bitterly opposed by the Sena. Thackeray is obviously unhappy over the “big brotherly” attitude of the BJP, which forced Sena to accept its term during Government formation in Maharashtra and refused to entertain its demand for greater representation in the Union cabinet as well.
In normal times, someone like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar would have gone all out against Sena’s attempt to find a toehold in Bihar, but now they have all the reasons to gloat over the development. They could expect Sena to accommodate those ticket aspirants who are ignored by the BJP.
While Thackeray and Owaisi have exhibited rank opportunism, the stand taken by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) also shows that “ideology” is just a slogan to fool the voters. For years, both these parties thrived on the politics of anti-BJPism, but now they have come out in indirect support of the BJP by walking out of the anti-NDA alliance’ consisting of the Congress, RJD and Jana Dal (U).
It is widely speculated in the media that Mulayam snapped his ties with the “grand alliance” because his family members allegedly took gratifications from Noida’s engineer Yadav Singh, who is facing a CBI probe for amassing huge illegal wealth. It is well known that CBI acts on the wishes of its political master in the country, and hence Mulayam might have his own compulsion to keep the BJP in good humour.
The NCP’s decision to play spoilsport for the so-called secular alliance is seen as an outcome of the excellent relations Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares with the NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Nothing else could explain the unrealistic demand of two dozen seats made by the NCP when it has a lone MP in the state.
Now comes the Owaisi factor. A polarizing figure, Owaisi’s entry into the Bihar poll arena has left tongues wagging. By all projections, Owaisis is unlikely to even open his account in Bihar. All he could do is to help the BJP by trying to cut into the Muslim votes.
Muslim voters make for more than 40-50% in 4 parliament constituencies – Araria, Kishanganj, Katihar and Purlia. It is from here that Owaisi plans to put up most of his candidates and along with Katihar MP and NCP leader Tariq Anwar will try to divide the anti-BJP votes.
The Muslim clergies are obviously upset with the stand taken by Owaisi and Mulayam Singh Yadav and others to divide their votes. Influential Muslim clergies have come out openly against them and appealed them to pull out of the Bihar battle.
On Monday, the Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari criticized Mulayam Singh Yadav for walking out of the “secular” alliance and giving the slogan of making a Muslim the Chief minister of Bihar.
In a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Bukhari said:
“On what grounds Mulayam Singh was talking of a Muslim as next Bihar chief minister? In UP the population of Muslims was 20% while the Yadavs was 8%, yet no Muslim was ever considered fit for the post of the Deputy Chief Minister leave alone the post of the Chief Minister”.
– Jama Masjid Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari
He said the secular, democratic and justice loving people of the country, especially Muslims, were highly upset over the decision of the Samajwadi Party to quit the grand alliance of secular parties and contest on its own.
He also warned over allegations that Mulayam Singh Yadav was hand-in-glove with the BJP can adversely impact the SP prospects in the 2017 UP Assembly elections. RJD’s national spokesperson Manoj Jha is confident that Owaisi will not make any impact on their future. “Bihar voters are going to give decisive verdict. I don’t think any of these fringe players are going to make any differences. Voters will clearly see through such dirty games,” he said.
But senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said that the Muslims are no more captive voters and they would support the NDA alliance in a big way. “We are going to field a good number of Muslim candidates,” he told reporters in Delhi on Monday.
All said and done, the “fringe’ players in the battle field of Bihar stand thoroughly exposed in the eyes of the voters who are now seeing their true colours.
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