Ashok Mishra, April 04, ET Bureau: “I don’t know much about the election,” truck mechanic Mahmud Qurban said. “Yes, last time we voted for the BJP nominee because of Nitish Kumar. But this time around there could be a split in the Muslim vote.” The minorities account for over 21% of the electorate here. The Kulhaias, a socially disadvantaged group within the minorities, form a significant proportion within that and they seem to be backing JD(U) nominee Santosh Kushwaha.
The Kulhaias are entitled to reservation benefits under the MBC quota after Kumar’s government met the community’s demand. “It is only now that Nitishji has accommodated us in the MBC category and that is enough of a reason for us to back him. But then he has also done a lot of good work, especially for the madrasas,” said Mohammad Mujhid, who owns a shop that sells batteries at Gulab Bagh. Other Shop Owners at Gulab Bagh Agree.
“The JD(U) candidate is much more popular than the BJP sitting MP Udai Singh, who is not credited with any work in the constituency. Thanks to the efforts of the Nitish government, there is no rangdari (extortion) as was the case during the Rabri-Lalu regime. Like the Muslims, even the Yadavs will back JD(U),” said Mohammad Javed, adding that the RJD-backed Congress nominee Amar Nath Tiwari was nowhere in the reckoning.
The next morning, at the remote Muslimdominated Musapur village, opinion was more divided, suggesting a split in the vote between the JD(U) and Congress candidates. “Our village used to vote for the Congress in the past.
“Some votes of my village may still go to Congress but I know of Muslim-dominated villages like Parasmani, Chakla and Bakrikul which would extend full support to the JD(U) candidate,” Ishaque said. At the same time, he said the BJP candidate could eventually scrape through should the party succeed in its effort to polarise the vote on religious lines.
A Rahman, who runs a textile store in Gidabaddi bazaar on the outskirts of Purnea town, was full of praise for Kumar and said Muslims would be seen as traitors if they did not back him. “I want Nitishji to become PM of this country. He is a real mard (man), he did not care for his chair when he decided to quit the NDA over the candidature of Narendra Modi. I am sure the NDA would have won all the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar if Nitishji had stayed with the NDA but still he decided to quit the NDA,” Rahman said.