Patna: A man whose uncanny resemblance to Osama bin Laden made him actively woo Muslim votes for Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan years ago now feels shunned by everyone in Bihar.
The times have changed, and Meraj Khalid Noor admits that no one wants him any more in their campaign meetings.
Patna-based Noor was once the darling of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and former chief minister Lalu Prasad and the Lok Janshakti Party's (LJP) Ram Vilas Paswan.
Osama bin Laden. File pic
"I campaigned in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls for Paswan and in the 2005 assembly elections for Lalu," the businessman-turned-politician told IANS. "Now I am without any political work."
He now complains that Lalu Prasad and Paswan "used him" to attract Muslim votes to their parties. "I am no more in demand... I have been used and dumped."
The so-called Muslim factor plays a major role in elections in Bihar.
About 16 percent of Bihar's 83 million people are Muslims. They form sizable sections in constituencies like Kishanganj, Katihar, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Siwan and Katihar.
Noor is tall, well built and sports a long black beard. Like the now dead Al Qaeda chief, he is always seen with a white robe and a turban to match.
He admitted then it was his mere resemblance to the then world's most wanted man that was capitalised on as "I am neither a good speaker nor a leader with any support base".
"Nobody remembers my real name. Everyone calls me bin Laden."
According to Salam Iraqi, one of his friends, Noor took the plunge into politics in 2004 when he sought ticket from Paswan's LJP to contest the assembly polls. His plea was turned down.
But Paswan asked Noor to campaign for his party. Paswan would introduce him as "Osama bin Laden" at election rallies.
Noor switched over to the RJD in September 2005 and campaigned for Lalu Prasad.
Noor was so much in demand that Paswan and Lalu Prasad would invariably find a seat for him on their campaign helicopters, even it came at the cost of dropping a senior party leader.
"I shared the dais with Paswan and Lalu Prasad at several meetings and was honoured by both of them," recalls the Patna University commerce graduate who later studied rural management from Delhi University.
For all his looks, Noor is no hardliner.
He is the grandson of Kazi Muzahidul Islam, a former president of the Muslim Personal Law Board. His father, Noor Ahmad, was a close associate of veteran socialist leader George Fernandes.
Such was Noor's image that BJP's Narendra Modi once made a mention about him.
The late BJP leader, Pramod Mahajan, accused Lalu Prasad and Paswan in 2005 of glorifying "the most wanted terrorist in the world" by asking Noor to campaign for them.
Noor, however, remained in high demand. Today, it is a different story. With Osama dead and Narendra Modi in charge of an aggressive BJP campaign, Noor is truly a political untouchable.