Being in the NDA is costing Nitish Muslim votes
The JD(U) is losing the trust of Muslim voters in the state due to its association with the BJP.
Making up 17% of the population, the Muslims of Bihar are an important vote to covet. But BJP’s aggressive position on Muslims is alienating them from the Janata Dal (United). Nitish Kumar, who has been the chief minister for a decade, has long been in an on-again, off-again relationship with the BJP but that hasn’t been as much a liability until now.
In the early days of the NDA in Bihar, the BJP was still very much the junior partner in the alliance and it was easy to overlook their ideological leanings when the focus was entirely on Nitish Kumar and the changes he had brought about in Bihar. But lately the BJP is emerging as an equal partner and its naked ambition to eventually subsume JD(U) is on full display. Their continued association with the BJP has led to many of the Muslim leaders moving away from the party, eroding their support among the Muslims.
In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, JD(U) was fighting as part of the NDA and won 32 out of 40 seats. Ten years later, he was still part of the alliance, but having broken up and patched up in between, and won 39 seats. However, it was the one seat that was lost to the Congress that is a bellwether of how Muslims in the state are feeling. Kishanganj has a 70% Muslim population and this was the only reason that the Congress was able to win it.
While many Muslim voters naturally gravitate towards the RJD-Congress alliance, even those that had stood by JD(U) are now moving away, being hurt their team up with a party that is doing so much to undermine their identity and right to live and worship as they please. While the party once had notable leader like Ali Anwar, Dr Ejaj Ali and Dr Shakil Ahmed in its ranks, there is virtually no one to canvass for the Muslim vote except for the solitary MLC and former Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi.
This disenchantment is expected to benefit the opposition and also the AIMIM-alliance, which is actively courting the Dalit-Muslim votes. JD(U) is working hard to convince voters in the Muslim dominated constituencies from where it is contesting that Nitish Kumar has done much for the community like fencing cemeteries, to skill development programmes aimed at those graduating from madarassas, setting up coaching centres at Haj Bhavan and starting bridge program for school dropouts. But will this be enough to mollify the Muslims who feel betrayed after the JD(U) abandoned the Mahagatbandhan in 2017 to regroup with the BJP? It remains to be seen.