Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tough choice for Muslims of Bihar: Will they vote for Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD once again?

It is again going to be a tough choice for Muslims in Bihar, the state which is home to 25 million Muslims, as it goes to polls.

For the last 15 years Lalu Prasad Yadav has ruled the state as his personal fiefdom. On one hand he allied himself with Muslims, put an end to anti-Muslim riots that had become a regular feature and gave Urdu the status of official language.

Under the RJD rule, the state has been free from sectarian clashes and Muslims have enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace.

In the past, riots in Bihar were the norm every year. The Bhagalpur riots under Congress government had continued for six months and though the official figure of death was 4,000 [majority of the victims were Muslims[, the actual number was far more.

But the last fifteen years have also seen the state plunge into darkness with no development. People are migrating and Muslims households continue to be the poorest. Even the studies have shown the Dalits enjoing better financial status than the Muslims.

Muslims account for 18-19% of population in Bihar. Muslims have the power to tilt scales in favour of any party and are in a majority in Kishanganj. Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party [LJP] is an option but in the last election it had proved a spoiler.

Time for Muslims to bargain hard with Laloo. The Yadavas have for long enjoyed the power which they got with the help of Muslims. The Muslim leaders must stand up and ask Laloo Yadav to not take their support for granted.

Concrete plans for uplifting minorities should be part of manifesto and in return Muslims should throw their full weight behind Laloo and vote in higher numbers. Else, Bihar might as well go to the BJP. Nitish Kumar's JDU and BJP can together upset RJD's calculations.