Who will be the Congress candidate from Kishanganj in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections? Till the 6th of December, everybody knew the answer. Even the challengers of the two-time Congress MP Mohammad Asrarul Haque Qasmi – popularly known as Maulana – knew well that their chances are not bright. Came the next dawn, Maulana died of a sudden heart attack and thus began the chaos in Kishanganj Congress.
Let’s get familiar with a few of the challengers:
Those who call Kishanganj a Congress bastion are ignorant of the fact that it took a son of soil ‘Maulana’ and a contest with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to end the party’s 20 years exile from the Muslim dominated parliamentary seat. Mohammad Asrarul Haque Qasmi won for the party in 2009 defeating RJD stalwart Taslimuddin. Interestingly, Congress’s MJ Akbar – now a BJP Rajya Sabha MP – had defeated Asrarul Haque in 1989 who was contesting as an independent candidate. The party had denied Maulana a ticket after he failed to win for the party in 1985 by-poll.
Given, Maulana’s stature, the party would definitely consider harnessing sympathy votes by projecting someone from the family. Qasmi was eldest of three brothers, second bother Meratul Haque has played the role of a guardian ever since their father’s death, youngest brother, Zahidur Rahman, an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, has been associated with the party since his student life. He was elected an MLA from Bahadurganj in 2000 and served as a minister in the Bihar government. Later, he lost the seat too to an independent candidate Tausif Alam.
Maulana has three sons and two daughters, all of them stayed away from active politics. Some in the family wish to see the second son Saud Asrar – who oversees the working of Maulana’s NGO All India Talimi Wa Milli Foundation – in his shoes.
- Congress MLAs
Congress has three MLAs in Kishanganj parliamentary seat. Amour’s Abdul Jaleel Mastan is the senior most, Kishanganj’s Dr. Mohammad Jawaid Azad is an AICC secretary and Bahadurganj’s Tausif Alam is the only one among the three who has won four consecutive assembly elections.
Mastan – known for his simple lifestyle – is a six time MLA and was a minister in Mahagathbandhan’s Nitish Kumar government. He unsuccessfully contested 2004 Lok Sabha election as a Samajwadi Party candidate. He has openly spoken against Maulana on several occasions; he accused the Congress MP of being a BJP agent. Last month he laid the foundation of a project under his constituency 15 days after the same was done by the Kishanganj MP, when asked he said ‘Usko humlog saansad maante hi nahi hain’ (We don’t consider him our MP). The party can’t easily ignore both his seniority and the rebel behaviour.
An All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary and West Bengal in charge Jawaid Azad’s family is considered to be close to the Gandhi family. His father Mohammad Hussain Azad was a four time MLA from Thakurganj and a minister in Bihar government. Jawaid – a three time MLA – was the party’s choice in 2009 for Kishanganj seat when Congress and RJD decided to contest separately in general election, a senior party leader intervened in the last minute in favour of Maulana. A decade later he won’t let the chance go away again.
Tausif Alam – last of the strongman politicians in the region – considers himself most eligible for the ticket after Maulana. He was the independent candidate who defeated Asrarul Haque’s brother Zahidur Rahman in February 2005 Bihar election snatching away the Congress ticket from him in all subsequent assembly elections.
- Imported candidates
The grand old party would explore all possibilities to save Kishanganj. It won’t be a surprise if Congress brings a local candidate already preparing for the elections to its fold.
Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM failed to mark its presence in Bihar in the last assembly election, but it is making noises again in Seemanchal ahead of the 2019 election. The party has already announced its Bihar unit chief Akhtarul Iman a candidate for Kishanganj seat. Iman – a three time former RJD MLA – drew national headlines when he withdrew his candidature on JD(U) ticket in favour of Congress’s Asrarul Haque in 2014. Any tea-stall-politics-expert in Kishanganj will tell you, Akhtarul Iman on a Congress ticket will be unbeatable. Given Iman’s past, the possibility can’t be denied outrightly. Another tea-stall-politics-expert theory about Iman doing rounds is, since he was once the senior most RJD leader in the region, if the seat goes to the party, he will be their first choice.
Syed Mahmood Ashraf – who contested the 2009 election as a JD(U) candidate and is now a vice president of the party’s state unit – may be INC’s another choice. A few months back he organized an event where the likes of journalist Abhisar Sharma and poet Imran Pratapgarhi openly criticized the NDA government.
Beside these names, the party may consider an outsider, a known Muslim face, as its candidate but that would be suicidal. Asrarul Haque, the first MP from the local Surjapri community, has risen amongst them. For the first time, there are seven MLAs from the community in the Bihar assembly and Maulana’s legacy can’t be buried with him.
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