While former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections against the BJP’s Chhedi Paswan, is focusing on renewed caste equations to ring in a victory at the Lok Sabha polls on May 19, her opponent and incumbent MP Chhedi Paswan is banking on the ‘Narendra Modi’ factor.
This time, the fight for Sasaram is a two-sided one, unlike 2014 when the fight was a triangular one.
Speaking about caste permutations, Amarjit Kumar, a resident, said: “While Meira Kumar is likely to get an overwhelming support of her caste group — Ravidas — she will also get split votes from the OBC Kushwahas and upper caste Brahmins.”
The entry of former NDA ally Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha into the opposition’s mahagathbandhan, showed signs of a transfer of Kushwaha votes, he said.
Through her campaign, Kumar has invoked the legacy of her father and former deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram. While her father represented the constituency eight times, Kumar won it twice.
Her opponent Paswan, however, has been playing up the Modi factor and banked on the social combination of the Paswans (Scheduled Caste), upper castes and EBCs. He is confident that invoking Modi can chart up the win for him.
“He has been also hoping for BSP candidates to cut into some Ravidas votes. The CPI-ML presence could further help him a bit. Overall, Paswan brought up the Modi factor to get support across caste lines”, said Manoj Kumar, another Sasaram resident keenly observing the regions political discourse.
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The Bihar Congress, however, is confident of a victory on the seat. Bihar Congress spokesperson Harkhu Jha told The Indian Express: “We are taking Sasaram as one of the winning seats because it has been a traditional Congress seat. Besides, we have always got Ravidas, Kushwaha and Muslim votes. This time, there would be additional of Yadav and EBC votes.”
Another senior Congress leader who was familiar with strategy discussions said they were counting on Kumar to add to the party’s tally of winners. “Sasaram, Samastipur, Purnia, Katihar and Kishanganj are the seats we hope to win this time,” said the leader dismissing any ‘wave’ or undercurrent in the NDA’s favour.
Bihar BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said: “Meira Kumar has failed to live up to expectations of the people of Sasaram while Chhedi Paswan is a local leader who is connected to the roots here. People, in general, are voting for the BJP to make Narendra Modi the PM. The Congress has failed to establish a rapport with the masses and no one will vote for the Grand Alliance, which has no face to lead.”