Aslah Kayyalakkath & Sahid Faris
In Jokihat seat of the Seemanchal region in Bihar, Sarfaraz Alam, and Shahnawaz Alam, two sons of a former union minister and veteran RJD leader late Mohammad Taslimuddin are contesting against each other.
Taslimuddin; Seemanchal Gandhi
Taslimuddin, also Known as Seemanchal Gandhi, had represented the Jokihat constituency five times and first elected in 1969 with an INC ticket.
The powerful politician of Seemanchal, Bihar’s most backward region, also served as an MP in Lok Sabha five times. He was first elected to the Lok Sabha from the Purnia constituency in 1989 with a JD ticket. Taslmuddin was thrice elected from the Kishanganj Lok Sabha constituency in 1996, 1998, and 2004 under the RJD banner. He served his final stint as an MP in the 16th Lok Sabha after being elected from the Araria constituency.
“We are here for the last fifty years. If somebody asks any name from the Seemanchal area, the answer would be Taslimuddin,” Gulab, a 26-year-old grandson of Taslimuddin said to Maktoob.
Taslimuddin, who was a prominent Muslim leader in Bihar, also served as union minister of state for home in 1996 in the HD Deve Gowda government.
He died in 2014 after succumbing to some breathing problems in Chennai whist he was attending a parliamentary meeting.
Electoral bout between Two MLA sons
In Jokihat, now the battle is between Taslimuddin’s two sons, Sarfaraz Alam and Shahnawaz Alam. Sarfaraz is contesting under the RJD banner while Shahnawaz is in the electoral arena with an AIMIM ticket.
Taslimuddin’s eldest son Sarfaraz Alam had been elected to the Bihar House from Jokihat seat thrice, 2000, 2010, and 2015. The first one was as a candidate of RJD and the next two were under the banner of JD(U).
Sarfaraz had quit the JD(U) in 2018 and joined the RJD which fielded him as its candidate from Araria Lok Sabha seat in a by-poll necessitated by the death of his father Taslimuddin. He won the seat by a margin of 61000 votes but lost it to the BJP in the general elections the following year.
“Sarfaraz Alamji quit JD(U) in 2018 because of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had betrayed secular forces by breaking the Mahagathbandhan alliance and allying with Bharatiya Janata Party,” Munavvar, RJD’s local leader told Maktoob.
“There are many candidates. You can evaluate their past public life, ideology, and their promises. No doubt, Sarfaraz Alam is the best option, ” Sarfaraz’s son Gulab who was campaigning for his father in the Udahat area in the constituency told Maktoob.
Gulab said his father is fighting for secularism and the soul of the country.
“Our fight is very clear. It is against RSS and BJP. It is against Hindutva. My father is not fighting against my uncle (Shahnawaz Alam),” Gulab said.
According to Gulab, his uncle Shahnawaz Alam’s politics (AIMIM) is not secular.
“AIMIM will propagate Muslim communalism,” he said.
When Sarfaraz won the by-election from the Araria Lok Sabha constituency as a RJD candidate in 2018, Sarfaraz resigned as the Jokihat MLA. After that, his younger brother Shahnawaz Alam became an MLA from Jokihat on a RJD ticket during the by-polls.
Sarfaraz lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election and has returned to his traditional Jokihat seat and got a ticket from the RJD. In this situation, younger brother and current MLA Shahnawaz quit RJD and has entered the electoral arena on behalf of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
Ragib Wadood, 21, told Maktoob that he knows Shahnawaz Alam from his childhood and he will vote Shahnawaz and will actively engage in election campaigns.
“He (Shahnawaz) extensively worked for RJD. He was a true RJD leader. But the party betrayed him and didn’t give the ticket. RJD betrayed us also. People are angry here. They want Shahnawaz as their elected representative. He helped us in the pandemic time when the state government was inactive.”
Wadood claimed he is now an AIMIM member and he will fight BJP under the leadership of Asaduddin Owaisi.
“You can see a humanity in Owaisi. You can’t see it in Narendra Modi,” Wadood said.
Wadood also said to Maktoob, many RJD workers joined Owaisi’s party in protest of seat denial.
45-year-old shopkeeper Touheed Alam was a RJD worker and now he is sure AIMIM will win the elections in Jokihat and RJD-led grand alliance will win the polls in other constituencies.
“We want Shahnawaz Alam as MLA here and Tejashwiji as CM in Patna,” Touheed Alam said.
Taslimuddin’s family belongs to the Kulahiya community of Muslims.
Muslims constitute almost 77.5% of population in Jokihat constituency and the majority of the community is Kulhaiya Muslim.
Kulhaiyas are one of the four sub-groups of the Shaikh community in the area. The prime source of income of this community is agriculture.
Jokihat is one among the 45 constituencies in Seemanchal area. Seemanchal includes the most backward and flood-affected districts of Bihar and stands at the bottom of the 90 minority concentrated districts of India.
The Muslim populated region is backward, both in terms of its socio-economic standing and its infrastructure indicators.
“We want change. Nitish Kumar betrayed us. It is enough. You can’t see a basic development here. We may be poor but we are not fools,” 60 year old angry Muhammed Haseeb told Maktoob.
RJD vice president and Grand Alliance’s chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav, AIMIM supremo and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi among the leaders who joined the huge election rallies in Jokihat.