Patna: Once lured by former chief minister Lalu Prasad and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan to garner Muslim votes in Bihar, Meraj Khalid Noor is now busy cobbling together a coalition of half a dozen political parties ahead of the five-phase assembly elections in the state.
Chief of Awami Insaf Morcha (AIM), Noor`s claim to fame is his uncanny resemblance to the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Tall, well-built and sporting a long black beard and wearing white robes and a turban to match, Noor is known as "Bihar`s Osama bin Laden".
Interestingly, in Patna where he lives and across Bihar, people don`t know his real name. Everyone, including children, love to calls him "bin Laden".
Noor said it was his resemblance to the world`s once most wanted man that was taken political advantage of by certain politicians. "I am neither a good speaker nor a leader with any support base. But for Paswan and Lalu Prasad, I was something for my resemblance (to bin Laden)," Noor told IANS.
"I campaigned in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls for Paswan and in the 2005 assembly elections for Lalu Prasad," Patna-based Noor said.
He complained that both Rashtriya Janata Dal`s Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party`s Paswan "used" him to attract Muslim votes to their parties and later threw him away once their purpose was served.
Such was Noor`s image that Prime Minister Narendra Modi once made a mention about him. 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.
"We will announce the formation of a new front for Bihar assembly polls. Our talks with leaders of different parties to clinch a seat-sharing deal are in the final stage, under which we will contest all 243 assembly seats," Noor said.
"There is even a possibility that the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party could join us," he said.
"My party is popular among the Muslims, OBCs and Dalits," said Noor, who is a grandson of Kazi Muzahidul Islam, former president of the Muslim Personal Law Board.
Noor said expelled RJD MP and Jan Adhikar Party chief Pappu Yadav, Samras Samaj Party of former union minister Nagmani, former minister Dadan Pahalwan and others would come together to form a new front, "which will be the real third front".
Noor said Pappu Yadav was the "undisputed leader" of the Yadavs. Pappu is known as `bahubali` leader for his money and muscle power.
Nagmani, son of legendary backward class leader Jagdev Prasad, is a leader of the Koeri - or Kushwaha - agrarian caste. Nagmani was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government at the Centre and in the Nitish Kumar-led government in the state.
Dadan Pahelwan alias Yadav, wrestler-turned-politician, was a minister in the Rabri Devi government, and is also known for his muscle power.
He has headed the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Bihar in the past and unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Buxar.
Last year, Noor had announced that he would contest the Lok Sabha polls against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Varanasi. But his nomination papers were rejected.