Severing ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party and publicly snubbing leaders such as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and BJP MP Varun Gandhi may not necessarily deliver more Muslim votes into the JD-U kitty when Bihar goes to the polls in October.
There is a feeling among Muslim groups that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s snub could spark another round of the communalism debate between Hindus and Muslims and harden attitudes on both sides.
“Pitted against Modi, on whom the BJP future rides nationally, the BJP could be forced into shriller Hindutva campaigns. This could put the community on the defensive for no reason,” said a Muslim scholar.
Former Union minister Mohammad Taslimuddin, however, is certain that severing ties with the BJP would help Kumar win Muslim support.
“He is a man of action and he has upheld Bihar’s swabhiman (pride) by returning Gujarat’s money,” he said, referring to the Rs 5 crore given by the Gujarat government as aid for victims of the 2008 Kosi floods.
Maulana Abdur Rashid of the Touhid Educational Trust in Kishanganj also feels that the BJP is a thorn in Kumar’s crown. “Minorities are fully smitten by the charismatic Nitish. He should come to people with a cleaner image without the BJP.”
Other Muslim leaders also feel that an independent JD(U) is the need of the hour.
Opposition leaders, however, believe that Muslims in Bihar realise that the whole JD(U)-BJP issue is nothing but a political gimmick.
“Muslims are not fools. If Kumar was mindful of the community’s interest, he would have pushed a Muslim candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls. Had he been sensitive, he would have visited Godhra after the carnage in 2002 when the railway ministry was involved,” said state Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Abdul Bari Siddiqui.