Hena Shahab, wife of don-turned-politician the late Mohammad Shahabuddin is contesting as an Independent this time in Siwan. Her entry into the scene has complicated the field for Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

There was a time when Shahabuddin was very close to RJD chief Lalu Prasad and most important leader of the MY (Muslim-Yadav) equation. On this equation, Mr. Prasad ruled Bihar for 15 years. Muslims unitedly used to vote for the RJD in the name of Shahabuddin in entire Bihar, including Siwan and its neighbouring districts.

He had played an important role in establishing the political dominance of the RJD in Bihar but after his death due to COVID in May 2021, the situation changed and since then the RJD has maintained distance from Shahabuddin’s wife. He had died while serving a life sentence in a double murder case in Tihar jail.

No one from the Lalu family had attended his burial in Delhi, however, later RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has gone to attend the wedding of Shahabuddin’s son Osama Shahab in October 2021.

Now, his wife is all out in Siwan campaigning for herself as an Independent candidate while carrying the election symbol auto rickshaw. She had unsuccessfully contested on RJD ticket thrice — 2009, 2014 and 2019. In the last election, she got 3,31,515 votes, 33.66% vote share. She was defeated by Janata Dal (United) candidate Kavita Singh.

The RJD is tense because the Siwan constituency has a considerable Muslim population. It has three lakh Muslims, 2.5 lakh Yadavs, 1.25 lakh Kushwaha and around 80,000 Sahni voters. Apart from this, there are about four lakh upper caste and 2.5 lakh Extremely Backward Class (EBC) voters. When Shahabuddin was at his peak in politics, his influence was visible among the upper class of every caste group.

Though, the main contest is between Janata Dal-(United) candidate Vijaylakshmi Kushwaha, wife of former JD(U) MLA Ramesh Kushwaha and RJD candidate Awadh Bihari Choudhary, the Siwan MLA and former Speaker of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, but Ms. Shahab has made the contest triangular.

Developmental work

While campaigning in Gaura village, she appealed to the voters to vote for her and recalled to people that her husband did a lot of developmental work as an MP and MLA of Siwan. The late Shahabuddin represented Siwan twice as MLA and four times as an MP.

Asked about contesting the election despite losing three times, Ms. Shahab, clad in burqa, told The Hindu, “I will not give up until I succeed. I am the daughter of Siwan and wife of Mohammad Shahabuddin and have learnt a lot from him. He did excellent work on the education front and I want to carry forward his work for the people of Siwan.”

Hena Shahab, wife of former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, files her nomination as an Independent candidate for Lok Sabha elections, in Siwan on April 30, 2024.

Hena Shahab, wife of former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, files her nomination as an Independent candidate for Lok Sabha elections, in Siwan on April 30, 2024.
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She also asserted that apart from Muslims she is confident of getting the vote of other castes and religions as well. She did not respond when asked about her earlier proximity with the RJD saying that old days are gone, and she wants to re-start everything with the support of her well-wishers.

Last time the RJD won this seat was 2004 when Shahabuddin was alive.

A resident of Masudaha village in Siwan, Mohan Prakash said, “Our sympathy is there with the Hena ji being the widow of Sahab [Mohammad Shahabuddin is popularly known as Sahab in Siwan]. She is working and campaigning in 30 to 35 places every day. I don’t know whether she will win or not, but one thing is sure that she will get good numbers of votes.”

When she was campaigning in Mirpur village, Mr. Tejashwi Yadav was addressing a public meeting in Barharia for RJD candidate Mr. Choudhary. He, however did not mention her name during the entire speech.

She is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that she penetrates not among the Muslims but Hindus as well and that’s the reason that a few days ago, she was found using saffron colour gamcha during her campaign.

AIMIM support

The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has already extended support to her and Bihar State president Akhtarul Iman had made the official announcement last month.

Siwan is spread over six Assembly segments — Siwan, Ziradei, Darauli, Raghunathpur, Daraunda and Barharia. Except Daraunda, which is with the BJP, five Assembly seats are occupied by Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). Siwan will go to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

The JD(U) is also facing a silent protest from the supporters of sitting MP Kavita Singh, wife of another Bahubali Ajay Singh who has been replaced by Ms. Kushwaha.

Osama Shahab has kept himself away from politics. Last year he was imprisoned for three months in a case related to extortion.

Pratappur, the ancestral village of Shahabuddin, was once the place from where he used to operate and take calls. The villagers still have high regards for him and barely speak anything against the family. In 2001, there was a fierce gun battle when police raided the house in which 12 people had died, including two policemen. The family does not stay in this house and has shifted to a new house in Siwan town.

Siwan is also the place of the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad as his ancestral house and birthplace has been converted into a museum dedicated to the memory of Prasad.