A Muslim-dominated constituency in Azamgarh district, Mubarakpur is populated by communities of weavers, migrant workers and different schools of Islam.
The constituency that is voting on March 7 has perhaps the strongest chance for India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which has fielded its candidate for the first time on this seat. AIMIM’s candidate Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali has won the election twice from this seat on Bahujan Samaj Party’s ticket.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s campaign for a local candidate has grabbed attention of people given the popularity of Owaisi among Muslim youths of the region. Owaisi did a road-show on Wednesday in the town and addressed his supporters in an electrifying tone.
Besides the dominant Barelvi, Mubarakpur has a substantial number of Deobandi Muslims followed by the Ahle Hadith in terms of influence in the town. A significant number of Shias and Bohra Muslims also live here. Owaisi has been trying to bring these sects under an umbrella, as people call him a leader representing "working class of the town", and "interests of the community".
Abdul Hameed, a 26-year-old local AIMIM supporter, said, "Baba (referring to yogi Adityanath) committed a lot of atrocities on minorities and barrister Saheb (Owaisi) represents minorities." Hameed thinks easy availability of Alam has made him a popular candidate. "He is ready for everyone at any time, and he did a lot for our community here."
Guddu Jamali won twice (2012 and 2017) on the BSP ticket before leaving the party in November 2021. He reportedly met Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for a ticket, but when refused a ticket, he joined Owaisi. The Samajwadi Party has again chosen a person called Akhilesh Yadav "expecting division of Muslim votes and attracting OBC vote," says senior journalist Khurram Alam Nomani.
Jamali has defeated Yadav twice, but Yadav is also a popular figure. He was on the second position in the last two elections and lost by a close margin.
Yadav’s campaign is centered on bringing Muslim and Hindu together. While the BJP has fielded Arvind Jaiswal, the BSP’s candidate is Abdussalam. Jaiswal is raising the issue of banning the triple talaq and the interests of the Shia community.
The region faced Shia-Sunni riots in 1999-2000, but has remained peaceful in recent years. Mubarakpur is a major hub of Banarasi Sarees weavers, but they hardly get any credit. "Why are these saris known as Banarasi Sari? Why does nobody include the name of Mubarakpur? These Saris are sold in thousands, but weavers don't get much," a local resident Aftab Ahmad said.
"Mubarakpur was once known as mini-Dubai due to the employment it generated for a lot of labourers coming from various states. That has changed completely away," BSP member Muhammad Alam says.
"The biggest problem is that we don't have jobs for our youths. A lot of our youngsters are sitting idle at home," Alam added. "Industries have vanished and there is no good government-run degree-college.”
Another important character in this election from Mubarakpur is Lal Bihari "Mritak'', who is contesting as an independent. Once declared dead in records of the revenue department of the government, Bihari has been in news and he likes that attention. He has contested elections earlier as well, though unsuccessfully, but says that he represents "thousands of people declared dead in government records."
He claims that he was declared dead at the age of 21 in 1976. Since then he has been fighting for the interest of "living dead". "I want to represent everyone who has been declared dead in records." Recently, filmmaker Satish Kaushik made a movie "Kaagaz" on his story.