By Arun Srivastava
For those familiar with the political economic contour and social political cultural dimension of Bihar, the two day visit to the state of the electoral strategist of BJP, Amit Shah, on September 23 and 24, is absolutely not an exercise to reach out to Muslims of the Seemanchal region (eastern border) of state, instead it is laden with ominous design to keep confined Nitish Kumar in Bihar and frustrate his mission of uniting the opposition leaders.
During his visit Shah would hold a public meeting in Purnea district followed by consultations with officials and workers of the BJP in Kishanganj. Senior leaders however confess that the entire exercise will be similar in nature to the Chintan Shivirs, the party was organising in states, The Bihar visit attains more prominence as Shah has been highly critical of the Muslims and nurses antagonistic attitude towards them.
It is worth mentioning that only on August 31, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, met Nitish Kumar in Patna, as part of efforts to forge opposition unity and after the meeting gave the call for BJP mukt Bharat , blaming the saffron party’s government at the Centre for the many ills plaguing the country. At a press meet he called Nitish as “bade bhai” (big brother). He said they were not in hurry to name their candidate for prime ministrership and about the role of the Congress.
The Seemanchal has huge number of Muslims who had crossed over to India coinciding with the Bangladesh liberation struggle. Ever since the issue of nationality and citizenship was raised by Shah, the Muslims of the region have been sceptical of his impending moves. In fact the Muslims are trying to reason the factors that motivated Shah to come to the region. This has been his first visit to Bihar, after NDA government went out of power. If he was really interested to boost the prospect of the party and rejuvenate it, he should have camped in Patna. Instead he chose to visit this region.
Though some experts hold that Shah would launch his all-out war against Nitish and UPA from Seemanchal, it is not shared by many. It is a known fact a hurt and alienated Muslim population would not prefer to extend its support to Shah’s moves. Obviously in this backdrop Shah would rewind the audio tape of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and play his 80 versus 20 philosophy. Shah will prefer to play its nationalist card to the hilt during the 2024 Lok Sabha election. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had won its lone seat from Kishanganj. But in all likely hood this may not go down well for the BJP as the region has the highest Muslim population, around 65 per cent in the state.
Some Mahagathbandhan leaders expressed apprehension after the departure of Shah from Seemanchal, the intelligence agencies may launch the machination to uncover and expose the so called suspected terror modules operating in the Muslim-dominated region. Significantly JD(U) reacted to the development with disquiet. “The BJP’s politics hinges on engineering communal tensions. This is getting reflected in the choice of the place for the very first trip of the Union home minister,” JD(U) parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha said. He was categorical: “Visit will prove to be of no avail. The BJP’s plan to cash in on communalism in Bihar will fail just like it did in West Bengal ahead of the assembly elections last year”.
There is lingering perception amongst the state BJP leaders that the Hindus of Bihar are yet to be communalised like Uttar Pradesh. . For winning the 2024 Lok Sabha election it is imperative that BJP must win over the Hindus. It is widely believed that Shah would showcase the compulsion of survival of Hindus during his visit. For the BJP the process must start from Seemanchal. The party will put before the Hindus that Muslims of the region has prospered more than the Hindus of Bihar.
From this region in the 2020 assembly election, Asduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen had won five seats though four of them later joined RJD. At present out of 24 assembly seats in the region, the Congress holds eight, the Rashtriya Janata Dal three and the CPI (ML) one. The region comprises seven districts, including Araria, Madhepura, Saharsa, Supaul, Purnea, Kishanganj and Katihar.
During his stay in Seemanchal on September 23 and 24 Shah will address two rallies one in Purnia on September 23 and other in Kishanganj the next day. All senior party leaders of Bihar will be present in rallies. Shah is scheduled to meet the border officials on issues such as infiltration as the several districts of Seemanchal share borders with Bangladesh. This meeting will serve the major political and electoral interest of the party in furnishing the latest data of Muslim infiltration in India.
For 2024 election the party has set a target of winning more than 35 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In the last general election, the BJP had won 17 seats, while its former ally, the JD(U), won 16. In the 2020 assembly election, the BJP won 74 of the 125 seats, while the JD(U) won 43.
The state leaders nevertheless express hope that the visit may witness a change in the political stance of Shah. Keeping in view the compulsions of winning the election and installing Narendra Modi as PM for the third term, he may soften his attitude towards the Muslims. As the state party has no charismatic leader who can match the public appeal of Nitish Kumar, the party will prefer to win over the trust of the Muslim through its own initiatives. In the past the leadership had many concerns and disagreement over the issue. (IPA Service)