Jokihat Assembly Constituency, which goes to the polls on 7th November 2020 is witnessing a fight for the political legacy of Seemanchal Gandhi Talsimuddin as his two sons Sarfaraz Alam and Shahnawaz Alam are locking horns on behalf of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). If Raj Kapoor was alive today, he would have sung:
Bhai, Bhai Na Raha, Siyasat Hamen Tera Aitbaar Na Raha!
The political fight took an emotional turn at an election rally addressed by the AIMIM Chief and Hyderabad Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi in which he publicly appealed to Sarfaraz Alam to withdraw against his younger brother Shahnawaz Alam. Asad Owaisi promised to return the favor in the next Lok Sabha polls. He said that he would support and canvass for Sarfaraz even if he contests from any party except the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
It may be recalled that following the death of Taslimuddin, Sarfaraz won the by-election from the Araria Lok Sabha constituency as an RJD candidate in 2018. He resigned as the Jokihat MLA. After that, his younger brother Shahnawaz Alam was elected as MLA from Jokihat on an RJD ticket during the by-polls.
As luck would have it, Sarfaraz lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election and he has returned to his traditional Jokihat seat. He got a ticket from the RJD. In this situation, younger brother and current MLA Shahnawaz quit RJD as he felt the RJD deprived and cheated him by not giving a ticket to the sitting MLA. Shahanawaz has entered the electoral scene on behalf of Hyderbad-based AIMIM.
Asaduddin Owaisi declared that the fight in Jokihat is not between two brothers. He stressed that AIMIM candidate Shahnawaz is fighting Narendra Modi and not Sarfaraz. ‘Chhota bhai bade bhai ke qilaaf kaise ladd sakta hai? Shahnawaz ki ladai Narendra Modi se hai.’ It is good to see that the brothers are not making it a personal fight. There are no personal attacks either.
The Majlis chief Asad Owaisi reminded Shahnawaz that he is the son of a brave and the tallest Seemanchal leader Taslimuddin. Recalling an incident, Asad Owaisi told the huge gathering that he once observed Late Taslimuddin talking to the RJD chief Lalu Prasad in a firm tone and on equal terms. When Owaisi questioned Taslimuddin about it, the following was the answer from Taslimuddin:
‘Ye logon se aankh mein aankh milakar baat nahi kare to, ye log humko (Musalmanon) kamzor samajhte aur giri hui nazar se dekhte. In logon se barabari ke saath baat karni chahiye!’
To say it in English, Taslimuddin said: ‘If you don’t speak with these people by looking into their eyes, these people consider us (Muslims) as weak and look down upon us. We must speak to these people on equal terms.’ The tone and tenor of Asad Owaisi’s speech urged the people of Seemanchal to follow the footsteps of the great leader Taslimuddin and engage with the politicians of other communities on an equal footing. The crowd was in raptures!
Asad Owaisi went a step further after narrating the incident about Taslimuddin’s dealings on equal terms. He urged Shahnawaz to speak with him and to question him like his father did to Lalu. ‘Aap Taslimuddin Sahab ke farzand hain. Aap bhi mujh se vahi andaaz mein baat kar sakte hain aur sawal kar sakte hain.’
After the rally dispersed, the voters expressed their sentiments and seemed to be divided between the two brothers. But their unflinching loyalty could be seen in the way they mentioned Taslimuddin Sahab.
The first time, I heard about Taslimuddin was when I was just one year old into journalism. Reading a PTI copy, my mentor and Editor of Deccan Chronicle (Late) PNV Nair shouted in disbelief: Oh! Taslimuddin is the new Minister of State for Home in Deve Gowda’s cabinet. It did not strike to me then about how important was Taslimuddin as a tall leader. After hearing from Asad Owaisi about Taslimuddin’s ‘engaging on equal terms,’ my respect for Taslimuddin has multiplied beyond measure. The people of Bihar and in particular the people of Seemanchal are highly self-respected people. Do not judge them by their poverty. Judge them by their large hearts, fearlessness, and values.
The voters will give their verdict – whoever they choose – Shahnawaz or Sarfaraz, it is clear that Taslimuddin’s legacy will be showcased in the new Bihar Legislative Assembly also. The roar of the lion will continue!
A lesson for spineless Sarkari Musalmans in different political parties is that: stand up for the community and learn to engage your bosses on ‘equal terms.’ If they choose to be bold, the masses will automatically send them to the Assemblies and the Parliament!