The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tough test on home turf for Sinha

Hazaribagh, March 16: It will not be a cakewalk for Yashwant Sinha, the BJP’s star candidate, in Hazaribagh even this time around.

In fact, the 15th general election might prove to be one of the toughest battles for the former external affairs minister whose number of political adversaries have risen to at least three since 2004.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, Sinha had lost to CPI’s Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Mehta by a wide margin of 100,000 votes. Besides Mehta, this time there will three others to eat into his vote bank.

While the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union (Ajsu) has fielded former water and sanitation minister Chandra Prakash Choudhary, business baron Brajkishore Jaiswal, a close associate of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) president Babulal Marandi, will contest on a party ticket. Both the Congress and the JMM are also eyeing the seat.

Sinha had won the Hazaribagh seat twice — in 1998 and again in 1999. His USP was the commissioning of the Hazaribagh-Ranchi railway link. Sinha had managed to get the project cleared by then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who also laid the foundation stone.

But the tardy progress of the railway project and a few others went against Sinha and, in 2004, Mehta conveniently used the issues to his advantage.

He portrayed Sinha as “a liar playing with the sentiments of the people of Hazaribagh”. The CPI leader even played the caste card — Sinha is an upper caste Kayastha — to tip the scales in his favour.

Though political observers say that Choudhary and Jaiswal are plain soldiers in this clash of the titans, they will sure cut into the vote bank.

While Jaiswal could claim a share of Sinha’s “traditional” votes in Hazaribagh town, Choudhary could play party-pooper in Ramgarh. And if the JMM and the Congress decide to contest, the battle will get tougher for both Sinha and Mehta.

Talking to The Telegraph, Sinha brushed aside all threats and tried to put up a brave front.

“I am the only strong candidate and, so, the others are out to tarnish my image. They should concentrate on development instead. Mud-slinging cannot help win polls,” he said.

Mehta, who has already hit the campaign trail, however, continued his tirade against Sinha. “All he (Sinha) has done is lay a stone (foundation). I followed-up the project,” he claimed.

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