|Policemen pack arms and ammunition (top) and get ready with EVMs on Wednesday to reach polling stations in Maoist-affected areas of Gaya ahead of voting there on Thursday. Picture by Suman
Patna, April 9: The battle for six Lok Sabha seats from Bihar tomorrow will rewrite the fate of two speakers — Meira Kumar (Lok Sabha) and Uday Narayan Chaudhary (Assembly) — both of them Dalits.
The first phase of polling in the state, and second in the country, will decide if the fledging Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief, Upendra Kushwaha, emerges as tall a leader of his Koiri caste as Lalu Prasad is to the Yadavs and Nitish Kumar to the Kurmis.
Some of the big names whose future will be decided tomorrow could even have a bearing on Nitish’s future.
The polls will also settle if Chirag Paswan has the people’s verdict to carry forward his father, Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan’s baton.
The voters will also decide if former Kerala governor Nikhil Kumar — son of former chief minister S.N. Sinha — can regain his family bastion of Aurangabad or lose what is being observed as the septuagenarian scion’s last-ditch effort to regain his hold over Bihar’s “Chittorgarh”.
Over 9,45,73423 voters spread across 10,251 polling stations in, mostly, south Bihar will also decide if Lalu Prasad can revive his enervated RJD. The party has high stakes in Karakat from where Lalu’s “favoured” candidate and former Union minister Kanti Singh is contesting and Ara from where Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha is fielded.
Of all the seats, Sasaram, from where legendary Congress leader Jagjivan Ram’s daughter Meira Kumar is contesting, is likely to be closely watched. Meira found it increasingly hard to control the “tumult” that invariably rocked Lok Sabha, particularly during the UPA government’s second term.
She, apparently, has a tough battle in Sasaram, where she is pitted against Chhedi Paswan who had defeated her twice, in 1989 and 1991, riding on the then Janata Dal “wave” of V.P. Singh and Lalu Prasad.
This time around, Chhedi is trying to repeat history on a different horse, the Narendra Modi-led BJP.
What Meira is to the Mamnmohan Singh-led Lok Sabha, Uday Narayan Chaudhary is to the Nitish Kumar-led Vidhan Sabha in the state. But they are a study in contrast.
While Chaudhary depends heavily on Nitish to defend him against allegations that he has “Maoist connections” and indulges in “petty” acts to split opposition parties as also shield him from fellow minister Narendra Singh, Meira hardly needs Manmohan to pitch for her.
Meira enjoys a relatively non-controversial and decent track record unlike Chaudhary who is synonymous with controversy.
The Lok Sabha Speaker derives her strength from her personal image and the legacy of Babuji — as her father, former deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, was reverentially referred to in the old Sahabad region.
“Babuji ke sapne ko agey badhana chahti hoon (I want to take Babuji’s dream forward),” Meera repeats the same lines everywhere on the campaign trail in Sasaram.
Yet another candidate in the fray in Sasaram is bureaucrat-turned-JD(U) candidate K.P. Ramaiah, fielded to test Nitish’s new laboratory of the EBCs and Mahadalits.
Assembly Speaker Chaudhary, too, is locked in a fierce battle against actor-turned-politician and LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag and the RJD’s Sudhanshu Kumar Bhaskar, who has 20 per cent of Yadavs solidly backing him in Jamui.
Lalu Prasad is trying to prove he was still capable of transferring Yadav votes to non-Yadav Congress candidates in the case of Meera in Sasaram and Nikhil Kumar in Aurangabad.
That would also determine if his was a force potent enough to align with.
If his party’s nominees, Kanti Singh and Bhangwah Singh Kushwaha, win from Karakat and Ara, they would surely prove to be a “bonus” to the embattled Yadav kshatrap.
If Upendra Kushwaha — who resigned his Rajya Sabha seat and the JD(U)’s membership to break Nitish’s Law-Kush (Kurmi-Koiri) combination and emerge a sole leader of his Koiri caste — wins Karakat, he will be able to cover the required distance to become a leader of his caste.
Nitish Kumar’s victory lies in the defeat of the titans — Meira Kumar in Sasaram, Chirag Paswan in Jamui, another bureaucrat turned BJP candidate, R.K. Singh, in Ara and Nikhil Kumar in Aurangabad.
His candidates, Bagi Kumar Verma (Aurangabad), Meena Singh (Ara) and K.P. Ramaiah in Sasaram do not, apparently, have as impressive a profile as the Congress-RJD and BJP-LJP-RLSP combine’s candidates.
But they are all banking on the new experiment by Nitish, who has created an EBC and Mahadalit block who together constitute 45 per cent of the state’s electorate.