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A wife in burqa hits Siwan streets

Patna, March 31: Earlier, devout Heena Sahab’s life revolved around religious scriptures and household chores. Now, the 36-year-old in her burqa is reaching out to voters thanks to a court order that bars her husband, Md Shahabuddin, from the polls.

The Siwan sultan, as Shahabuddin is referred to because of his vice-like grip on the constituency, never wished for his wife to enter the public domain. But, the RJD now hopes that Heena would earn sympathy with Shahabuddin languishing in jail.

“Rivals have framed my husband in false cases and I am requesting voters to give Shahabuddin strength by voting for me,” Heena said. Pitted against her in the four-corner contest on the seat is JD(U) nominee Brishen Patel, Congress’s Vijay Shankar Dubey and CPI(ML)-Liberation’s Amar Yadav.

An outsider to the constituency, Brishen, who won the Siwan seat before Shahabuddin, is banking on the performance of chief minister Nitish Kumar. On the other hand, Amar Yadav — a pro-Naxalite leader — has been fighting on the strength of his cadre against Shahabuddin’s politics for over a decade.

With battlelines drawn for the 13 Lok Sabha seats, going to polls on April 16, Heena has party boss Lalu Prasad contesting for the adjoining Saran seat. Lalu is said to have an edge over his rivals when it comes to luck. Lady Luck appears to have smiled on him in the initial rounds of the battle, with Congress nominee failing to arrive on time to file his nomination.

That has left Lalu Prasad pitted against a relatively weak BJP nominee Rajiv Pratap Rudi who he trounced comfortably in the 2004 polls. The BSP, too, has fielded a candidate in Saran in a bid to make the battle a triangle.

JD(U) strongman Prabhunath Singh is in the battle to retain Rajput-dominated Maharajganj seat. Challenging the JD(U) man, who is also involved in cases of murder and road hold-ups, are RJD’s Umashankar Singh and Congress’s Tarkeshwar Singh.

Five-time MP and BJP nominee Lalmuni Choubey is locked in a fierce four-cornered contest to retain his grip on Buxar. Faced with an anti-incumbency factor, Choubey is faced with the task of retaining his seat with Congress fielding a strong Brahmin candidate, K.K. Tiwary, threatening to divide Brahmin votes, and the RJD pitting MLA Jagdanand, a Rajput who has never tasted defeat in his Ramgarh bastion ever since 1985.

Veena Devi is yet another don wife, Surajbhan, who has been fielded on the Nawada seat. Veena is contesting on the LJP ticket as the court has convicted her husband in a criminal case.

Nawada, too, is set for a triangular contest with BJP candidate Bhola Singh trying his luck among Congress and LJP nominees.

Congress heavyweights Nikhil Kumar and Meera Kumar, the daughter of late Congress stalwart Jagjivan Ram, may find it hard to retain their Aurangabad and Sasaram seats with the RJD breaking its alliance with the Congress. The party has fielded its nominees on these seats that already has the resurgent NDA nominees trying hard to wrest the constituencies from them.

Apart from the said seats, Arra, Jamui and Gopalganj seats, too, will go to polls in the first phase. Bhore MLA Anil Kumar is contesting against JD(U) Purnmasi Ram and RJD renegade and Congress nominee Ramai Ram in Gopalganj — home to Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi.

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