The Nitish Kumar Cabinet, which has been “criticised” for inducting “undereducated legislators” as ministers, also has a PhD in Urdu, Dr Abdul Ghafoor, as Minority Affairs Minister. In an interview with Mohammad Anas, Dr Ghafoor articulated his views on policies and priorities of his portfolio. Excerpts:
Q. Muslims of Bihar have overwhelmingly voted for the JDU, RJD, Congress Mahagathbandhan (around 84-90%, as per various estimates). How will your government repay them?
A: No doubt Muslims have played a key role in the victory of our alliance, but OBCs and Dalits, too, have voted for us in huge numbers. This mandate has put an enormous onus on us to formulate an all-inclusive development strategy. And this is exactly what our government is planning. We are specifically focusing on educational, social and economic development. We are very serious on this front, and you will see results soon.
Q. In Bihar, Muslims are around 17% and Yadavs around 14%. But in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet, there are seven Yadavs and only four Muslims. Why?
A: Perhaps you are seeing the proportional percentage of population of these two sections. Ministerial berths have been distributed according to the number of MLAs from these sections. Muslims have got due share in the government structure. Muslims in Bihar are educationally and economically backward. Once they become strong on these indicators, they will be positioned better politically.
Q. One of the major concerns for Muslims in Bihar is increasing communal tension. A large number of communal incidents in the past two years is testimony to that. Even small incidents like what happened during the Vaishali communal clashes last week, are turning into violence.What will your government do to stem this vicious tide?
A: There is a reason for this communal divide in Bihar. The new generation of Biharis seems to be unaware of our traditional social harmony. Hence, they are falling for communal propaganda easily. However, rest assured that this will soon stop. Communal forces will not be able to take root here.
Q. Tejaswi Yadav, Lalu Yadav’s son, has been made Deputy Chief Minister. We have seen that sons of prominent politicians have not been very successful. Your comments.
A: Tejaswi Yadav is the only son in India whose father and mother have both been Chief Ministers of a state. So, there must be little reason to doubt his political acumen. He will carry on Laluji’s political legacy with dedication and distinction. Besides, he is young and understands the problems faced by today’s youth, and will come up with better solutions to address them.
Q. You are the Minority Affairs Minister. Usually, this ministry revolves around only problems of madarsas, graveyards, Wakf etc. How will you make it different?
A: When I was being allotted this ministry, Nitishji clearly said: “We are not giving you the ministry; we are assigning you the development of minorities. Go and deliver.” And that is my mantra for this ministry. We have already identified Muslim-majority areas in the state and we plan to open minority development centres there. Actually, the plan is to start development of Muslims at the village level. All possible opportunities of their educational and economic development will be searched and provided.
Q. The Muslim-majority Seemanchal region has been one of the most backward in Bihar. People from this region have been demanding establishment of the Seemanchal Development Council. Even Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi had raised this issue during his election campaign in Seemanchal. Will your government deliver on this?
A: We are extra serious to develop Seemanchal. Besides opening of minority development centres there, we will consider constituting the Seemanchal Development Council too. If it is found feasible enough, it will see the light of day during the rule of this government.
Q. There has been separate reservations for OBC Muslims in states like Kerala, Telangana etc. Will the Nitish government follow suit?
A: The caste-based census of Bihar is yet to be made public. Only after this data is revealed, separate reservations for any section may be discussed. Right now, OBC Muslims in Bihar are enjoying the benefits of reservation under the backward category.
Q. The issue of 1989 Bhagalpur riots has been very sensitive to Muslims in Bihar. Its main accused, Kameshwar Yadav, was released by the Bhagalpur district court on 10 November, two days after the Bihar elections results were declared. Will your government challenge it in the High Court?
A: Our government and the State Minority Commission will study on what ground the said accused has been acquitted by the court. We will also find lapses in the case of prosecution. Based on this assessment, we will decide whether we should go to court or not.