It is the last day of campaigning in Banka that votes on April 18. Rebel BJP leader Putul Kumari, 60, wife of veteran politician and former Union minister Digvijay Singh, who passed away in 2010, has a packed day. Helping her are her daughters Manasi Singh (27), who is studying at the London School of Economics, and international shooter and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Shreyasi Singh (25), who has taken a break from Olympics preparation for the campaign.
Kumari, a former BJP state vice-president, turned rebel after the Banka seat went to the JD(U) during seat-sharing negotiations. She is contesting as an Independent against the JD(U)’s Giridhari Yadav and sitting RJD MP Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav. Incidentally, Digvijay too had won the seat as an Independent in 2009 after being denied a ticket by the JD(U).
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After Digvijay Singh’s death, Kumari had won a 2010 bypoll from the seat, but lost in 2014. Kumari continues to bank on her late husband’s legacy though, which she and her daughters have been invoking, hoping this will get her the 3.75 lakh upper caste votes in the seat. Kumari is also counting on a split among the 6 lakh Dalit and OBC voters.
RJD MP Yadav’s best bet is the nearly five lakh Muslim-Yadav voters. But, apart from the votes Kumari is eyeing, the JD(U)’s Giridhari Yadav is also making a pitch for Yadav voters.
Around 10.30 am, Manasi prepares to leave for Basitola village near Banka. While interacting with a few elders, she says, “I tell people to vote for development. I want to rise above caste and religion.” Manasi has been visiting around 30 villages daily.
At noon, Shreyasi, after visiting villages in Barahat region, is set for a roadshow in Katoria — a predominantly tribal belt that also has members of OBC, EBC and SC communities. As her SUV pulls up, locals throng her. Following the 25-year-old through a 3-km walk of the area, ignoring the harsh sun, her supporters chant slogans, with some sporting cylinders, Kumari’s symbol. Many refer to her resemblance to her father.
Around 1.30 pm, at the small Katoria office, Shreyasi makes a brief speech, introducing herself as “Bihar ki beti”. Later, she tells The Indian Express, they are not opposing the BJP. “But only if my mother wins will we support the NDA.”
Asked if she would join politics, she says no. “My next goal is a gold medal in the 2020 Olympics.”