New Delhi: Of its 12 Muslim candidates fielded in Bihar, the Congress party’s Maskoor Usmani, 26 — fighting from Jale seat in Darbhanga district — lost to the sitting MLA, the BJP’s Jibesh Kumar, by 21,796 votes.
The results of the constituency have been declared. Usmani polled 65,395 votes while Kumar emerged the winner with 87,321 votes.
The former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student leader made headlines in May 2018 over a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the university premises. The BJP dubbed him a “Jinnah sympathiser” and had sent big guns such as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and party chief J.P. Nadda to campaign against him.
“Congress and Mahagathbandhan leaders have to answer to the country if the Jale candidate supports Jinnah. Congress and Mahagathabandhan have to tell if they also support Jinnah? Will Sharjeel Imam be their star campaigner?” Union minister Giriraj Singh had asked during the campaign.
The grand old party faced resistance from within as well when Rishi Mishra, the son of former Union Minister L.N Mishra, questioned the decision to give a ticket to an “anti-national and Jinnah worshipper” after he was denied the party ticket.
The Jinnah controversy
In 2018, BJP’s Aligarh MP Satish Gautam wrote to AMU’s vice chancellor regarding the removal of a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah from the campus.
Violence ensued but the university’s student union — then led by Usmani as its president — argued that Jinnah’s portrait has been here since 1938, “when he was given honorary membership of the students’ union, as were several other leaders of the time”.
“I had just written a letter to PM Modi at the time, asking him why the portrait is a problem when it is a part of the legacy, and when it is hanging in other important institutions too such as the Bombay High Court. I never got a response, but they made me out to be a Jinnah supporter,” Usmani told ThePrint in an earlier article. He went on to allege that Congress’ decision to give “an opportunity to young Muslims” in the Bihar polls was threatening the BJP.
Jale went to polls in the last phase of the election on 7 November with Adityanath and Nadda campaigning on 4-5 November respectively. Both raised various issues ranging from Pakistan and Article 370 to Ram Mandir. While Jale has a sizeable Muslim population, the saffron party is relying on polarisation to pave the way for its sitting MLA Jibesh Kumar’s victory.
Meanwhile, Usmani made education his tool for his debut election as he aims to establish libraries in every block, if not every village in Jale. With assets worth Rs 1 lakh, according to his election affidavit, Usmani is one of the poorest nominees.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.