The withdrawal of Mukhtar Ansari and Akhtarul Iman from the poll race in Varanasi and Kishanganj, respectively, has set off a trend that could impact the minority community’s voting preference in the Kosi-Seemanchal region. The leaders pulled out of the fray ostensibly to avoid a split in the Muslim vote.
Ansari and Iman are being considered "martyrs", who “sacrificed” their political careers for consolidating minority votes to stop BJP’s Narendra Modi from becoming the PM.
"Both Kashi and Kishanganj have turned into the laboratory of Muslim politics, where its psyche can be understood," said Shamsi Ansari of Jokihat in Araria district. "Modi is not only dangerous for Muslims, but also a big threat to the country," said Muhammad Javed at Araria court.
The Iman-Ansari duo is a hot topic of discussion among the people in the Kosi-Seemanchal belt. "For the first time, the polarisation is so sharp that minority leaders of different parties got together and impressed upon Iman to stay out," he said.
However, Iman’s opponents don’t see much wisdom in his decision. Instead, they describe it as an "act of betrayal" towards the Janata Dal (U) and its leader Nitish Kumar, who had reposed faith in Iman. "He ran away from the battlefield in the midst of war," said Shazid Ansari at Forbesganj.
As news spreads of the polarisation of Muslim votes, the constituencies going to polls on April 24 are witnessing consolidation of Hindu votes as well, causing concern to anti-BJP parties like the RJD and JD(U).
"The nation needs Modi. Mukhtar's elder brother Afzal Ansari has supported Modi in Varanasi, saying Muslims will remain safe under him watch. Muslims in Gujarat have already seen it. So there should not be any apprehensions," said Parmanand Rishideo, the BJP’s Raniganj MLA.
The vote polarisation may help the Congress in Kishanganj, but it is likely to put the prospects of anti-BJP formation candidates in Katihar and Araria in jeopardy. In the previous elections, Muslim candidates had in all polled 93.71% votes against 6.29% by Hindu candidates in Kishanganj.
But in Araria, Muslim candidates together polled 45.63% votes against 55.71% by Hindu candidates. In Katihar, Muslim candidates polled 49.34% votes against 50.66% by Hindus in the fray. The margin of victory was only 3.08% in Araria and 2.02% in Katihar.