In Yadav hub, a Bulganin fights for his seat

Former Soviet Union Premier Nikolai Bulganin's name is a familiar one in this sleepy block headquarters town of Samastipur district in north Bihar.

By Ramashankar in Mohiuddinnagar (Samastipur)
  • Published 8.10.15

Former Soviet Union Premier Nikolai Bulganin's name is a familiar one in this sleepy block headquarters town of Samastipur district in north Bihar.

Mohiuddinnagar MLA Ajay Kumar Bulganin shares his surname with the former Soviet leader. Also, a chowk (local market) on the Hajipur-Mohiuddinnagar road, around 45km north of Patna, is named after the former Soviet leader. The chowk is about half a kilometre from the legislator's ancestral home in Dhamaun, dominated by Yadavs, whose support is crucial for anybody's victory from this seat. Bulganin, a Yadav who has represented this seat twice, is a native of this village, consisting of 22 tolas (hamlets) and over 22,000 votes.

Bulganin was born Ajay Kumar Rai. There is an interesting story on how he became Bulganin. When the Soviet leader was visiting Bengal in 1955, he was accorded a warm welcome by then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. "My elder sister Prabha, who was then in Bengal, was so impressed with him (Nikolai) that she prevailed upon my father to change my surname. At that time I was only five or six years old. My father agreed and family members started calling me Bulganin. Hence, the surname became a household name in the family and the neighbourhood," the lawmaker said.

The Bulganin Chowk, he said, "was a unanimous decision of the people and not of an individual. After all it owes its name to a great socialist leader, who played a vital role in cementing ties with India when it needed Soviet support. It's a real tribute to the departed soul."

Though Bulganin contested the first election in his life in 1985 as Ajay Kumar Rai, he later changed his surname. A Class X-pass, Bulganin claimed to have worked for the downtrodden guided by the likes of Karpoori Thakur, Devi Lal, Choudhary Charan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. "All these great socialist leaders have visited my village Dhamaun, which boasts of several IAS and IPS officers and around 10,000 teachers who are serving academic institutions across the country."

The stress on academics was evident. A group of young girls were returning from coaching classes on their bicycles even in the 26-degree heat. Asked, one of the girls said: "We want change at the helm of affairs for a better future." The girls, enrolled at a nearby Intermediate college, had one complaint. "Half of the village doesn't have electricity, but its name figured on the list of electrified villages. We feel ashamed of such things," said one of them; the others nodded in agreement.

Bulganin is known as a dabang (strongman) in the area. Like former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar's Bhondsi Ashram, he has set up one on the banks of the Ganga and controls his political activities from there. Though he was an RJD MLA in the outgoing Assembly, the party has fielded Ejya Yadav, a Patna Women's College teacher. She is the daughter in-law of Rajendra Rai, a Hajipur-based influential RJD leader considered close to Lalu. Dismissing her political rivals' charge that she is an outsider, Ejya claimed she was the beti (daughter) of the region, being a native of Rasulpur village in the area.

A visibly upset Bulganin said: "Laluji had assured me a ticket. But he ditched me at the last hour and decided to field Ejya, who is a new face here." Bulganin is now the candidate of the Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik), led by Madhepura MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav. The BJP has fielded Satyendra Singh of Anand Golwa village. Satyendra is also a zilla parishad member. However, Rajesh Singh, who contested the 2014 Assembly by-election on the BJP's symbol, is giving Satyendra a tough fight as a rebel candidate.

There are 18 contestants in the fray for Mohiuddinnagar seat. Jawahar Rai, a liquor baron, is also trying his luck as an Independent from this seat, mostly represented by Yadavs so far. Only four candidates belonging to another dominant caste - Rajput - have been elected from here. Anugrah Narain Singh of the Congress had won in 1985 while Rana Gangeshwar Singh of the BJP was elected in 2010. Rana later switched over to the JDU and became a member of the Legislative Council. Earlier, Kapil Dev Singh of the Congress had won the seat twice.

Mohiuddinnagar votes on Oct. 12