Ayub and (right) Mubaraq in Parbatta. Pictures by Nalin Verma
Parbatta (Khagaria), Aug. 16: Mohammad Ayub (60) and Mohammad Mubaraq (50), brothers separated 20 years ago, embraced each other and ate chicken and rice together with their families on August 11 when arch rivals Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar hugged and made up after 20 years of bitterness.
Ayub and Mubaraq started off as Janata Dal activists at their ancestral Pipra Latif village in Parbatta Assembly segment (part of the Khagaria Lok Sabha constituency) in the 1990s. “We stayed with Lalu’s Janata Dal. Ayub bhai (elder one) shifted to the Samata Party (the earlier incarnation of the JDU) in 1995, a year after it came into being,” said Mubaraq. “Our family relationship too got bitter, leading us to separate our kitchens as well,” Mubaraq said.
“We were overjoyed to watch on TV that Laluji and Nitishji had united. Overwhelmed by happiness, we (Ayub and Mubaraq) broke into tears and embraced each other. As an elder brother is supposed to do, I bought chicken and got Mubaraq and all our family members to cook the food in a joint kitchen. Since August 11, we are eating meals cooked in our common kitchen,” Ayub said.
Except working for their respective political parties, Ayub, president of the JDU’s Pasraha block unit, and Mubaraq, head of the RJD’s Pipra-Latif panchayat wing — the two brothers had many things common. Both were small-time local traders, dealing in banana and maize, the main produce in the region. Their lifestyle, sustenance and also political moorings too were almost the same.
The two brothers — bitter opponents of the Sangh parivar since the beginning of their respective political careers — explained how the differences between them harmed them at the personal level as well as on the political front, benefiting the BJP.
“My supporters and I voted for JDU, while Mubaraq and his supporters voted for the RJD,” said Ayub. “In the absence of any coherence, many of our fellow community members voted for the BJP-backed Mehboob Ali Kaiser (of the LJP). Kaiser eventually won the Khagaria Lok Sabha seat while the JDU and RJD lost the polls.”
The newfound bond of the estranged brothers suggests that the “confusion” in the rank and file of the Muslim masses has dissipated somewhat.
The trend was reflected in Bhagalpur too.
Mohammad Shakir (22), a youth from the silk city, said they were confused while voting during the Lok Sabha polls. “JDU had fielded Abu Quaiser, a Muslim. The RJD had put up Bulo Mandal. The BJP candidate was Shahnawaz Hussain. Though Bulo Mandal won, Quaiser got over 30,000 Muslim votes, decreasing Bulo’s victory’s margin. This time there is no confusion among us. We will vote for the Congress candidate, Ajit Sharma, who has the backing of both Lalu and Nitish.”
Though the foes have called a truce in their fight against the BJP, for their non-Muslim cadres, A stands not for Alliance, but Animosity.
“We had a soft corner for Nitish as long as he was with the BJP. We voted for him too in the past. But we find his decision to join hands with the RJD as his design to bring jungle raaj-2 in Bihar,” said Nawal Kishore Sharma, a Bhumihar in Hajipur.
A journey through Parbatta, Bhagalpur, Hajipur and Chhapra — among the 10 Assembly seats where by-elections are scheduled for August 21 — revealed that the cadres, from the grassroots to the top level, as well as the people belonging to the upper castes — are staunchly opposed to the RJD-JDU alliance. If anything, their support remains with the BJP, which swept the Lok Sabha polls not too many months earlier.
There appeared to be a state of confusion, mainly among the OBC (other backward classes, largely comprising Yadavs, Kurmis, Koiris and Banias) and EBC (over 150 castes besides a section of rural Banias) cadres also. The two parties are packed with OBC and EBC cadres given their socialist roots.
Many of them are unable to figure out the position they will have in the wake of the Lalu-Nitish unity. For instance, Udit Rai, a powerful Yadav leader of Chhapra and also a former minister, is believed to be “sour” at the alliance. “Earlier, a Yadav used to be the RJD candidate from Chhapra. Udit Rai has represented it thrice as RJD nominee. Now, Lalu has given the seat to a Rajput (Randhir Singh), whom Nitish is backing. It is a loss of our caste’s quota,” said a supporter of Rai, who didn’t wish to be named.
What has further fuelled the confusion is the BJP’s sustained efforts to rope in these castes in a big way. “Akhir Narendra Modi bhi to backward hai, why should we be so opposed to him,” said Rameshwar Yadav (40), an RJD activist at Pasraha.