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Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Polls, BJP Deploys Hindutva Agenda in Seemanchal

Controversial issues like alleged illegal infiltrators, cow slaughter, and love jihad are being raised in the region.
Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Polls, BJP Deploys Hindutva Agenda in Seemanchal

Representational Image. (File Image)

Patna: The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is desperate to use its well tested Hindutva agenda in Seemanchal, a Muslim-dominated backward region of Bihar, to polarise people ahead of the 2024 general elections. The saffron party has already launched its campaign to consolidate the Hindu vote bank consisting of all non-Muslim linguistic and ethnic groups in the region by raising controversial issues.

This factor has come to the surface in the last two days. None other than Bihar BJP president Samrat Choudhary's repeated statements has made it clear and it appears that the BJP will not miss any chance to play the Hindutva politics in Seemanchal.

The region comprises four north-eastern districts of Bihar—Purnia, Araria, Kishnaganj, and Katihar, which have a significant Muslim population.

Choudhary, during his visit to Seemanchal on June 8-10, has raised controversial issues like alleged illegal infiltrators (mainly Bangladeshi Muslims), cow slaughter, love jihad, increasing population of Muslims and decreasing population of Hindus. These claims have raised concerns about creating fear, targeting Muslims, and polarising Hindus.

"For a peaceful Seemanchal, there is a need to act against Bangladeshi intruders. If BJP comes to power in the state in 2025, our government will thrown out all Bangladeshi intruders and not a single Bangladeshi will stay here. If Bangladeshi intruders try to violate law, they would be either be put in jails or buried under the soil," Choudhary said. He is a also a BJP MLC and an OBC leader belonging to the powerful Koeri community. The BJP leader, who has been wearing a saffron turban and saffron gamcha, made these claims while addressing a gathering in Purnea district on Thursday. The meeting was a part of the party's month-long Maha Sampark Abhiyan, a pre-poll mega mass contact campaign.

On Friday, during his campaign in Araria district, Choudhary said that stern action will be taken against people for cow slaughter in Seemanchal if the BJP forms government. He further said the party will not tolerate a network of love jihad and anti national elements in the region.At Araria,Choudhary claimed that Bangladeshi intruders will be sent back.

Choudhary, who is fast emerging as a face of the party's Hindutva champion replacing some vocal upper castes leaders, reportedly enjoys the support of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

BJP leaders in the state said Chaudhary is widely seen as Shah's man, who was given command of the party last march in Bihar, a crucial state for the saffron party. Choudhary has been working as per the instructions of Shah in Bihar. It is one of the states where the saffron party is set to face a big challenge from the ruling Mahagathbandhan, consisting of Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, RJD of Lalu Prasad/Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Manch of Jitan Ram Manjhi, Congress, and Left parties. Choudhary was given a big task to repeat the party performance of 2019 in the 2024 elections, according to a senior BJP leader.

Seemanchal is considered a stronghold of the Mahagathbandhan and a politically weak area for the BJP in Bihar.

According to political watchers in the state, the BJP’s design is simple and clear – consolidate and polarise Hindu voters in Seemanchal. BJP has been working on these issues that will make it easier to hit the sentiments of Muslims in Seemanchal and other places and exploit these to get Hindu votes across the state.

For the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), flood prone Seemanchal is a priority area as the concentration of Muslim population is highest there, and BJP has so far failed to make much inroads in the region. In the Seemanchal region, Muslims account for 70% of the population in Kishanganj, 38% in Purnea, 43% in Katihar and over 42% in Araria. However, Muslims only form 16.5% of Bihar's 105 million population, as per the 2011 Census.

There are 23 Assembly seats in Seemanchal and four Lok Sabha seats. Despite the strong presence of the Muslim population, only 10 Muslims were elected as MLAs in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls when the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, and JD-U contested elections together. Only one Muslim was elected in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Kishanganj; it was the sole seat won by the Congress as the opposition Grand Alliance.

BJP ,which contestested 2019 Lok Sabha polls together with JD-U of Nitish Kumar, won Araria parliamentary seat and JD-U won Katihar and Purnea seats.

Muslim-dominated Kishanganj also rejected the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s brand of politics by defeating its candidate. The AIMIM candidate, Akhtarul Iman, was not only defeated but came third. Owaisi had campaigned vigorously for him.

The BJP won Kushanganj once when its candidate Shahnawaz Hussain was elected in 1999.

But in 2020 Bihar assembly polls, AIMIM won five seats. Last year, four of them joined the ruling RJD, and AIMIM is now  left with only one MLA.

In recent years, several BJP leaders including Union Ministers raised these issues and tried to link backwardness, poverty, and high migration to illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators. “Illegal infiltrators are a curse for the locals. They have devoured employment and jobs of thousands of people. They should be identified and forcibly driven out,” BJP MLA from Purnea, Vijay Khemka, repeatedly said.

Khemka blamed backwardness and poverty in Seemanchal on “illegal settlers, who are enjoying facilities at the cost of the original people."

Khemka is supported by most BJP leaders of Seemanchal. They claimed that Bangladeshi settlers are engaged in cattle smuggling to fake currency rackets.

Not just BJP, other RSS outfits, such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have also focused their pitch against Muslims in Seemanchal in the name of “illegal settlers”, and they demanded NRC implementation.

Amid protests against the CAA- NRC in 2019, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha, who is also considered close to the RSS, had then said that the party strongly favoured NRC in Seemanchal. NRC should be implemented there, like in Assam, to flush out those from Bangladesh settled there, he had said. 

Sinha, a vocal champion of the BJP’s  politics, claimee the population in Bihar’s border districts has been increasing. This proves that a large number of Bangladeshis were settled in the Seemanchal region, he concluded.

A VHP leader said ABVP, Bajrang Dal, and his organisation have been raising the issue of illegal settlers in Seemanchal for years.

Ironically, the government data suggests that Seemanchal is one of the most backward, underdeveloped pockets in Bihar with rampant poverty and high rate of migration.

Several studies have observed that poor socio-economic conditions are responsible for large-scale migration from Kishanganj and other Seemanchal districts. These poor and under-developed districts of Bihar have also emerged as a hub of cheap migrant labourers, who are forced to travel to developed states for their livelihood. 

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