Maskoor Usmani had been a difficult man to schedule an interview for, primarily because he was busy visiting villages and towns, hearing their grievances, and campaigning for the assembly elections. When we did eventually talk, it happened at around 12 in the morning, with the background noise audibly speaking “take a left from here, the next place would only be a few hundred kilometres”. It is quite understandable that the one of the Congress’s youngest candidates in the 2020 Bihar assembly elections is someone who works day and night, because he must have gotten used to the time schedule while being a student. The Indian National Congress is contesting this election as part of a Grand Alliance with the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), and three left parties–CPI, CPI-M and CPI-ML.
This time around though, the Congress is backing on young student leaders to deliver the results, and therefore, has chosen people like Tauquir Alam from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Maskoor Ahmad Usmani from Aligarh Muslim University, to lead the charge. Speaking to Maktoob, Usmani, 26, who is contesting for the Jale in Darbhanga district, sounded tired, but enthusiastic to talk about his future plans. “As a young person, as a doctor, as a student, I have felt the heartbeat of the population, of the students, of the farmers. They want jobs, they want development, they want security. They don’t want any communal agenda.”
“As our CM candidate Tejaswi Yadav promised in the manifesto, we would be working towards establishing 10 lakh jobs immediately after coming to power. Even though Nitish ji (Kumar, NDA CM Candidate) laughed at it and asked us where we would get money for creating jobs, they themselves went ahead and shamelessly promised 19 lakh jobs in their own manifesto. This is nothing but a disgrace for them, and a moral victory for us, that for the first time in recent years, we’ve made the incumbent party talk about real issues and not communal polarization”
Though these people are some of the youngest politicians to get a ticket for the assembly elections, but much like the midnight travel Maskoor was undertaking, their journey has not been without difficulties.
Tauquir Alam, who is contesting from Pranpur constituency in Katihar district, was a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and rose through the ranks of JNU’s NSUI after having contested the elections for the President of JNU Students’ Union. For Tauquir Alam, this is the second fight. Alam who is currently a national secretary of Youth Congress, in 2015 assembly elections, contested from Pranpur and had come in third, with 39,653 votes. Alam’s father Mansoor Alam was an RJD leader and three-times MLA from Barari in Katihar and a Minister of State for Minority Welfare in Rabri Devi cabinet.
Maskoor was the president of the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union when the BJP MP of Aligarh Satish Gautam demanded the removal of Jinnah’s portrait from the student union’s office. In the controversy, and the violence that followed, Usmani led from the front against Hindutva groups while making it clear that neither he nor any of his AMU brethren had any allegiance to Jinnah.
“The time has changed a lot now, I was a leader of a University then. The politics there prepared me to learn and help bring about actual change. I am now a youth leader, and I’ll continue to preserve the ideals of secularism, pluralism, and the idea of India in the best of my capacity” Maskoor told us.
Though their campaigns have reached the last leg of their preparations, both candidates are leaving no stone unturned. Faisal Jamal, a resident of Jale said, “It is good to see students entering mainstream politics and listening to actual issues. Unemployment is the biggest factor for me, and if they keep their word, it would be a change for the better”.