|Patna Sahib candidates Parveen Amanullah
A whirlwind is building up for Parveen Amanullah in the BJP bastion of Patna Sahib, but it’s unlikely to unsettle Shatrughan Sinha who can thank Narendra Modi if he wins this time.
Before delimitation in 2009, Patna’s populace was half urban, half rural and the voters would send the BJP’s C.P. Thakur to Lok Sabha one time and the RJD’s Ram Kripal Yadav the next time. After delimitation, Patna has become a predominantly urban seat with a 28 per cent upper caste population - the highest in the state. Not surprisingly, BJP leaders like Shatrughan Sinha, Sushil Kumar Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Nand Kishore Yadav all eye this seat while other parties struggle to find a suitable candidate. “If the BJP loses Patna Sahib, it means it will not get a single seat in Bihar,” conceded a senior BJP leader, such is the confidence.
“At one time, we used to win all three major Assembly seats in Patna and also Danapur. Even in Bakhtiarpur our man has won thrice. Our support base cuts across castes,” said BJP leader in the Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, who has himself won five times from a Yadav-dominated segment of Patna Sahib.
Despite being a BJP bastion, AAP candidate Parveen Amanullah’s popularity seems to be on the ascendant here. On Wednesday, Parveen was walking the narrow lanes of Bakhtiarpur, around 45km from Patna, meeting people. On Thursday, she visited the same place and Khusrupur, around 35km from Patna. She has walked through many Patna City localities like Karmali Chhak, Begumpur and Mahroofganj, telling people: “Main hi aaungi aap logon ke liye. (I alone will come to listen to your woes.) I could easily have enjoyed my status as minister. But, I quit to work for you all.” Parveen was a minister in Nitish Kumar’s cabinet before quitting the party and joining the AAP in February.
Despite Shatrughan’s charisma, people feel Parveen will get lots of votes but it could work to Shatrughan’s advantage and harm the JD(U)’s Gopal Prasad Sinha. The JD(U) candidate, a Padma Shri and popular physician, is trying to cut into the BJP’s Kayastha votes, besides tapping JD(U)’s traditional voters, the Kurmis and Mahadalits. Sinha is also banking on people’s disenchantment with Shatrughan because of his inaccessibility.
Voters feel the going would also be tough for Congress-RJD candidate Kunal Singh, the Amitabh Bachchan of Bhojpuri cinema. Kunal is a Yadav and his father had been a Congress minister. He, too, plays up Sinha’s absence from Patna Sahib and is drawing crowds. “Kunal may get a chunk of the Muslim-Yadav votes the RJD commands. But it may not be enough to win,” said an RJD leader.
“Parveen was a social worker before she became minister. The people of this area know her. She used to come earlier too, to meet people and address their issues. She is working harder than the rest in this gruelling heat. She may not win, but will definitely make a difference, which is not good news for the JD(U),” said Vishal Satyam (35), a businessman in Patna City.
“I must say she is a bold and brave woman, I am impressed. She gives us hope. Shatrughan is a star and I haven’t seen him for years now. Only now is he turning up, to vanish again perhaps,” said Mohammed Ashfaq (25), a barber.
“Many businessmen reside in Patna Sahib. There are also big wholesale stores and shops. And businessmen prefer the BJP. Things might not change, but the mood is different,” Ashok Kumar, who deals in construction rods, said.
As one moves towards Daniawa, around 35km from Patna, Chotu Kumar (34), a betel-shop seller, shyly says: “I can keep my shop open till late without fear. Nitishji made this possible. But this isn’t the Assembly election. This is bigger. And the ‘wave’ can just be seen.”
Arun Kumar (65), a grocery store owner, interrupts him. He says: “People are angry with Shatrughan as he never cares to visit his constituency. This time people will not vote for Shotgun but for the BJP, for Narendra Modi.”
Over here, people have mixed feelings about Amanullah.
“We won’t say she is bad. But her party is new. And we don’t trust Arvind Kejriwal. Parveen will draw votes, mostly Muslim ones. And that will divide JD(U) votes. We don’t know much about Kunal Singh, except that he is an actor. Ditto about Gopal Prasad Sinha, except that he is a doctor. There is a NaMo wave. People have to accept it,” said an elderly man at Daniawa.
l Patna Sahib votes on April 17