Pitted against each other, these old-time rivals from Congress and BJP have one thing in common in this Naxalism-affected Lok Sabha constituency. Asked how they propose to tackle Naxalism, both say they will talk about it only after the elections.
In a constituency where Rajputs and Yadavs constitute the numerically dominant groups, with a substantial Muslim presence, Nikhil Kumar had reason to be confident and resign as governor of Kerala to contest as the Congress candidate once the alliance with RJD was sealed.
Asked about his prescription for Naxalism, Nikhil Kumar, also a former Delhi police commissioner, said, “I will talk about it only after elections.” Posters of Sonia Gandhi, Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi are pasted on the walls of his house.
Though his close associates maintained he is “opposed” to Naxalism, the sitting JD(U) MP and now the BJP candidate from Aurangabad, Sushil Kumar Singh, also refused to spell out his plans for dealing with Naxalism. “Please ask me about it after the elections. All I can say is the state government is indifferent to this issue and making no attempt to tackle it. Naxal violence has only
gone up. In the last six months, there have been three major incidents killing 20 people, including cops,” said Sushil.
Once a member of the CPI’s student wing AISF, Nikhil cited his Gandhian belief against violence. “I approve the doctrine of communism minus violence. In Bihar, there is no development. They (Naxals) have almost assumed the role of an alternative government step by step. I (accept) their grievances but not the way they are addressing it. I am influenced by Gandhian philosophy,” he said.
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While Nikhil is banking on the Rajput-Yadav-Muslim combine to romp home, the BJP candidate is focusing on how the former comes to Aurangabad only once in five years.
Nikhil , a former governor of Nagaland besides Kerala, had won this seat in 2004 and describes how he helped his constituents — helping someone in surgery at AIIMS, or a youngster get his passport in Mumbai.
The BJP is also making an issue of Nikhil Kumar drinking nothing but Bisleri water. The intention is clearly to project one as a local, grounded, accessible next-door candidate, and the other as distant, urbane and inaccessible.
The political rivalry between the two candidates is, in fact, not new. It dates back to the 1960s when Sushil’s father, Ramnaresh Singh, had a falling out with Nikhil’s father, S N Sinha. When Sinha was Bihar CM in 1989, he fielded Nikhil’s wife, Shyama Singh, from Aurangabad but she was defeated by Ramnaresh, also known as Lutan Singh. In 1991, Ramnaresh defeated Sinha. And in 2009, Sushil defeated Nikhil.
Now in 2014, Sushil’s common refrain is: “Nikhil Kumar is beyond the reach of the common man. I am here for them 24 hours.”
While Nikhil Kumar’s legacy and caste equations make him a formidable candidate, the BJP’s campaign also seems to be getting resonance.
According to a retired jute mill manager, M K Singh, in Bharthauli village, “Nikhil Kumar is so good, so honest. But you have to come face-to-face with people all the time, not just once in five years. I think he will get some Rajput votes.”