Bihar's "Osama bin Laden" is out of work during the 2009 election season, unlike the 2005 assembly polls in the state when he campaigned for Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Businessman-turned-politician Meraj Khalid Noor, who was dubbed Bihar's bin Laden for his striking resemblance to the notorious Al-Qaeda chief, was expecting he would be roped in by either political party for the election campaign. But no one has approached him till now only days ahead of first phase of polling, April 16, for 13 of the state's 40 Lok Sabha seats.
"I am not in demand any more during the ongoing general elections. I am busy with my personal work," Noor told IANS over telephone.
Noor, who runs a men's salon and a school in Patna, recalls he was much in demand during the 2005 state assembly elections. "I was much sought after then but not during ongoing elections," the businessman, who is tall, well-built, has a long black beard and sports a white robe and a turban just like bin Laden, said.
However, he admitted it was only his resemblance to the world's most wanted man that was capitalised on, since he was "neither a good speaker nor a leader with any support base." "No body remembers my real name, every one calls me bin Laden," he added.
According to a close friend, Noor took the plunge into politics late 2004 when he sought a ticket from Paswan's party to contest the February assembly poll, but was turned down. However, Paswan decided to use Noor for campaigning, introducing him as "Osama bin Laden" at his various poll rallies then.
However, Noor switched over to the RJD in September 2005 and campaigned for the party in the November 2005 assembly elections.
"I shared the dais with Paswan and Lalu Prasad at several meetings during the state assembly elections and was honoured by both of them," Noor, a commerce graduate from Patna University and a post graduate in rural management from Delhi University, said.
For all his looks, Noor is no hardliner. He is the grandson of Kazi Muzahidul Islam, a former president of the Muslim Personal Law Board, while his father Noor Ahmad was a close associate of veteran socialist leader George Fernandes.
Interestingly, Bihar's ruling Janata Dal (United) has been using another long-bearded man -Maulana Ghulam Rasool Baliavi - in its poll campaign to attract Muslim voters.
Baliavi, who was earlier with Paswan's LJP but joined the JD-U, was seen accompanying Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as well as JD-U national president Sharad Yadav during election campaigning. "Baliavi has a permanent seat along with Kumar and Yadav in their helicopters for election campaigning these days," a senior JD-U leader said.
After the caste factor in Bihar, the Muslim factor is also significant. About 16 percent of Bihar's 83 million populations are Muslims, and constitute sizeable populations in constituencies like Kishanganj, Katihar, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Siwan and Katihar.