Updated: October 12, 2015 7:16:50 am
The first phase of the Bihar elections will be a test both for Ram Vilas Paswan, whose party dominates the Lok Sabha seats from this region, as well as for the grand alliance which leads the assembly count — 34 of 49 — but which is uncertain about whether the Yadav vote will transfer to the JD(U).
In Alauli reserved seat, Paswan’s brother Pashupati Paras is fighting against Chandan Kumar in the old family bastion. Paswan’s party has four of the region’s eight MPs but in 2010, the JD(U) candidate had defeated Paras in the assembly polls. This time, Ram Vilas has made an emotional appeal to Paswan and Mushahar voters: “Galti hua to maaf kariye.” Also contesting is Ram Vilas’s nephew Prince Raj, son of Ramchandra Paswan, from Kalyanpur.
Sheikhpura, meanwhile, will be a testing ground for the Yadav vote. The JD(U)’s Randheer Soni is a Kurmi while the Samajwadi Party has fielded Vijay Yadav, one of the richest candidates in the election. From the NDA is HAM candidate Naresh Sahu, a Baniya. The Kurmi candidate’s camp is worried that he might not get Yadav votes because the region has bitter memories of the Tanti massacre of Yadavs.
In neighbouring Barbigha, the Congress has fielded Sudarshan, grandson of Congress leader Rajo Singh, one of the accused in the Tanti massacre. This again threatens the grand alliance. Another factor that is set to divide the votes is that all three candidates are Bhumihars.
A high-stakes battles is in Bhagalpur, where Arjit Shaswat, son of BJP MP Ashwani Choubey, is contesting against the Congress’s Ajit Sharma. This is the seat from where Shahnawaz Hussain lost the last election, apparently due to infighting in the BJP. Shahnawaz is focusing a lot on Bihpur, where the RJD candidate is Varsha Rani, wife of Bulo Mandal who had defeated Shahnawaz.
In Tarapur, senior HAM leader Shakuni Chaudhary is contesting against Mewalal Chaudhary of the JD(U). Vijay Prakash, brother of Banka MP Jai Prakash Yadav (RJD), is contesting Jamui.
The NDA is aiming at 30 of the 49 seats. The region has seen a bitter campaign over the last 20 days where, instead of debating poverty, migration and corruption, political leaders have hurled personal abuse at one another and talked of reservation, forward and backward castes, and cows and beef.
More than 30 of the candidates are aged under 45. At least five are PhDs and over a dozen are doctors, engineers and MBAs. A total 130 candidates in the first round face serious criminal charges, says Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch.
Also, 146 candidates are crorepatis, in some of the poorest areas of Bihar. The Congress’s Bhagalpur candidate is the richest with Rs 26 crore while 48 candidates have claimed that they have no cash on hand. The LJP candidate from Kahalgaon claims his assets are worth Rs 10,000.
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