Mohammed Jahangir Alam is well-informed about the latest twists in national politics, obsessively catching the news on television and reading e-editions of Hindi newspapers on his cell phone that has 3G service.
The information he had soaked up helps make up his mind when Purnea goes to polls in the final phase on November 5.
For Alam, the aim is to defeat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Don’t you see what Modi sarkar is doing? Don’t you see what happened in Dadri in UP, in Kashmir with the MLA (Engineer Rashid)? They want Hindus and Muslims to fight,” he reasoned at a tea shop in Pirganj village near Purnea town.
But is Narendra Modi behind all these? Weren’t these random incidents? Alam’s response was quick: “They have already said if Muslims want to live here, they should do so according to Hindu ways, eat like Hindus. Tomorrow, they will tell us we have to dress like Hindus.”
The carping could have been less had the BJP MLA for the area visited Alam’s village, allegedly, even once. “He has done no work here because he thinks he will never get any votes from here. Why should we trust the party?”
In nearby Araria’s Rampur Mohanpur village, Fazle Haq harboured similar views. “If BJP loses in Bihar, we can stop them in 2019. Hindustan is for all religions. They want to make it only for the Hindus.”
Right-wing groups’ no-beef diktat is a live political issue, especially among Muslims, in this distant corner of Bihar’s Seemanchal region. They say it confirms their worst fears of BJP.
The Grand Alliance of Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad is careful about this anti-BJP sentiment because it doesn’t want to run the risk of counter-consolidation of Hindus.
A top leader of Janata Dal (United) said Muslims have urged the alliance not to speak about their issues too much. “Their message to us is we are with you. Focus on Hindu votes.”
A leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) confirmed this, saying Muslims are voting aggressively but silently. “Even on issues like beef, they are restrained. They don’t want to do anything that helps the BJP polarise this into a Hindu-Muslim contest.”
For its part, BJP has shown little interest in projecting a new image and allaying insecurities of Muslims.
The party leaders said minorities would not have voted for them in any case but hoped the vote to get divided, with Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party and Pappu Yadav’s candidates making a dent.