Explained: Owaisi’s Outreach To Seemanchal In Last Five Years

Explained: Owaisi’s Outreach To Seemanchal In Last Five Years Owaisi’s AIMIM in Seemanchal, Bihar.
Snapshot
  • Among the promises made by Owaisi for Seemanchal, one was the establishment of a campus of the Aligarh Muslim University in Kishanganj.

The four districts of Kishanganj, Araria, Purnia and Katihar in Bihar make up the Seemanchal region, which has 24 assembly seats. Muslims are a deciding factor in at least 20 of these seats.

Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), has bagged five of the 24 seats it contested in the region.

The AIMIM has been making inroads into Seemanchal over the past few years.

Soon after drawing a blank in the 2015 assembly elections in Bihar, Owaisi started identifying and recruiting young and influential people — professionals, school teachers, clerics and businessmen — from Seemanchal into his party.

He laid out a clear roadmap for his party functionaries, who launched a low-key campaign on behalf of the AIMIM.

“Muslims have been simply used as vote banks and neglected by the Congress and the RJD after elections get over. Nothing has been done for the social and economic development of Muslims by these two parties,” Mohammad Dilshad, a senior functionary of the AIMIM from Katihar district, told Swarajya.

This has been the key point of the AIMIM’s campaign among Muslims of Seemanchal all these years. And along with this, AIMIM functionaries also launched outreach programmes as well as social welfare measures, including charity work, for poor Muslims.

That the AIMIM had been gaining popularity in Seemanchal was evident when its candidate Qamrul Huda not only won the Kishanganj Assembly seat in a by-poll last year, but inflicted a crushing and humiliating defeat on the Congress.

Huda bagged 41.46 per cent of the votes cast while the Congress candidate Sayeeda Banu, mother of Kishanganj Lok Sabha MP Mohhammad Jawaid Azad, lost her deposit.

Kishanganj had been a Congress bastion since the 1950s and Banu’s late husband Hussain Azad has been MLA of Kishanganj five times between 1967 and 1995.

His son Jawaid Azad followed in his footsteps and was MLA from the seat for four terms before being elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019. The bypoll was necessitated by his election to the Lok Sabha.

But though Kishanganj has been loyal to this family, the plight of the common Muslim there has remained unchanged for decades.

“Muslims remain mired in poverty and neglect. Nothing has been done for socio-economic development of Muslims for decades. We promised them concrete development and that’s why they have reposed faith in us,” said AIMIM’s Akhtarul Iman.

In 2019, the AIMIM candidate for Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat, Akhtarul Iman, polled more than 40,000 votes in the Kishanganj Assembly segment and also took a lead in the Kochadhaman and Bahadurganj assembly segments in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

It is, thus, no surprise that the AIMIM has bagged Bahadurganj and Kochadhaman seats, as well as Baisi and Amnour in Purnia district and Jokikhat in Araria district, this time.

The AIMIM has promised to fight for a special financial package for Seemanchal, establishment of a campus of the Aligarh Muslim University in Kishanganj, improvement in physical connectivity and investments in the region.

What also helped the AIMIM’s victory in the five seats, and its good performance in many of the other seats it contested from, was its alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and the Janwadi Party-Socialist (JPS).

Together, the four parties had formed an alliance called the Grand Secular Democratic Front (GSDF), which projected itself as an alternative to the NDA and Mahagathbandhan.

The alliance with the BSP got the AIMIM Dalit votes, while the Kushwahas, who form a sizeable section in nine constituencies of Seemanchal, also voted for Owaisi’s party in large numbers.

Seemanchal, a highly sensitive region since it lies very close to the Bengal-Bangladesh border, has witnessed the return of lakhs of mostly Muslims during the coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown.

“Their (the migrants’) plight was pitiful. It made people wonder why most youth from Seemanchal have to migrate out of Bihar for jobs. What good has come to the people of the region from supporting the Congress and the RJD all these decades?” asked Iman.

The feeling of being shortchanged by the two parties (Congress and RJD) despite remaining loyal to them for decades, and the positioning of the AIMIM as a viable alternative, led to the latter’s good show in Seemanchal.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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