| Nitish Kumar |
Patna, Feb. 22: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today campaigned for the Kalyanpur constituency by-election the second time in the past week.
The seat goes to poll on February 24.
Nitish has proved the perception that chief ministers or big leaders stay out of Assembly bypolls wrong.
He has taken it quite seriously and has, apparently, been pulling no stops to ensure the victory of the JD(U) nominee on the north Bihar seat in Samastipur district. Nitish’s campaign on the last day of canvassing, twice in a week, made that evident.
The Kalyanpur seat, reserved for Scheduled Caste, fell vacant following JD(U) leader Ramsevak Hajari’s death. The Dal has fielded Manju Devi, the homemaker wife of Ramvilas Ram, a former agriculture officer.
The JD(U) and the BJP had opposed Nitish’s predecessor Rabri Devi tooth and nail on the ground that Lalu Prasad had got his wife out of kitchen, foisting her as the chief minister. Manju Devi has so far been a typical homemaker. Contesting the Kalyanpur seat is her first foray into politics.
Despite the talks of differences between the Dal and the BJP, Nitish made it a point to show the united face of the NDA on the Kalyanpur turf. Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP campaigned at the same place a couple of days ago.
Nitish today took former state BJP chief C.P. Thakur to campaign for his Dal candidate. The presence of a sizeable section of upper caste Bhumihars in Kalyanpur was attributed as the reason behind Thakur accompanying Nitish.
Thakur belongs to the Bhumihar community and is believed to command “respect” of his caste brethren. During his previous visit, Nitish had accompanied Vijay Kumar Choudhary, his cabinet colleague from the Bhumihar community. Choudhary also belongs to Sarairanjan, an Assembly seat in Samastipur district.
Unlike the “rookie” that the Dal has fielded, candidates of the LJP-RJD combine and the Congress have reasonably better political profiles. Rekha Paswan, the LJP candidate supported by the RJD, has been an old political activist who had contested the Kalyanpur seat in 2010, trailed second to the Dal veteran Hajari.
Today, Lalu Prasad for the first time made a whirlwind tour to Kalyanpur campaigning for the LJP nominee.
“But Lalu and Ram Vilas Paswan too have paid lip service in Kalyanpur. They should have organised a series of meetings with the workers and people in favour of their candidate if they really wished to exploit on the resentment growing against Nitish,” said a senior RJD leader in the state Assembly.
Given her profile, Anita Ram of the Congress might be the best candidate in the lot. But the party leadership has virtually left her to fend for herself. No senior leader of the Congress, including the Congress legislature party leader, Sadanand Singh — a veteran of many electoral battles who had entered the Assembly way back in 1969 — campaigned in Kalyanpur this time.
Given the track record, the Dal appears to have an edge over its rivals. The party had won the Kalyanpur seat in 2010 by a margin of over 30,000 votes. The party is contesting the polls with the same social and political equations this time around too.