BJP battles hard to save loss of Muslim face

More than the worry of Muslims not supporting him, what is gnawing at Hussain’s chances of victory is the fact that so far the Muslims in the constituency look unlikely to allow division of their votes. Though there are two other prominent Muslim candidates in the fray, one from Nitish Kumar Janata Dal (United) and other from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) but the minority community seems to be consolidating behind the candidate from Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal – Bullo Mandal.

Belonging the to the Gangauta (boatmen) community, Mandal brings with him nearly two lakhs votes of his community. Add to them nearly two lakh Muslim and two lakh Yadav votes, which is all set to revive the M-Y combination of the ‘invincible’ Lalu Yadav era. With 16.5 lakh votes in the all and of which six lakhs votes of electorally aggressive communities all set to vote for RJD candidate, Hussain has a tough job at hand to retain the seat which has remained with the BJP since 2004, first won by former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and then retained by Hussain in the bypoll in 2005 and general election in 2009.

BJP too realises that despite being the lone Muslim face of the party, Hussain is not in the position to harvest the large minority electorate here. However, if one loss it cannot afford is that of its sole Muslim candidate. Therefore not surprising that senior BJP leaders are carpet bombing the constituency to consolidate on the vote bank. Narendra Modi held a huge public rally in the town. Nitin Gadkari addressed party workers. Party’s national president Rajnath Singh addressed a rally in the industrial township of Kahalgaon. Former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi is concluding the campaign with an aggressive road show in Bhagalpur town. In addition to them, several second rung leaders from state and centre are camping here. It’s after all the question of giving Narendra Modi government a Muslim face elected by people.

The seasoned political observers here however feel that BJP’s electioneering towards the end would manage to turn the tide. ‘It’s a tough battle, though towards the end a section of Muslims would come around to vote for the BJP candidate as his presence gives them strength in the local equations,’ says Vijay Kumar Rai, director of the Centre for Gandhian Studies at Bhagalpur University.
Hussain has worked towards the development of some of the Muslim dominated areas specially those lying across the Ganges. ‘I am asking for votes for bringing Bhagalpur on the development map. In addition to roads I have got better rail connectivity for the constituency,’ says Hussain.
Rai sums up the situation saying, ‘BJP has to win this seat to save its image. The party under Modi knows best how to manage its image.’
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