Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is leading by a margin of over 2 lakh votes against Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha In Patna Sahib. The battle was fierce on the seat with two Kayastha candidates — one a famous actor, two-time MP, a proud Bihari Babu and another a well-known advocate and Union IT and Law Minister — of rival parties in the fray. The seat is named after Patna Saheb Gurdwara but it is the Hindu Kayastha community, with over 7.5 lakh population, that rules the roost here.
Altogether 18 candidates were in the fray for the constituency, which covers the entire Patna city and a part of the outskirts, though the contest is viewed essentially as a direct one between actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha and Ravi Shankar Prasad.
BJP rebel Shatrughan Sinha, who switched sides to the Congress on March 28, was contesting from the seat for the third time in a row, while Prasad is making his debut in electoral politics. In 2014, Sinha won the Patna Saheb seat, a BJP stronghold, for the second time with a huge margin. Sinha, who would often talk about being “one of the founder-members of the BJP”, is up against his own impressive past shows.
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Known for his acerbic criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sinha has targetted the saffron party’s central leadership on several issues ranging from demonetisation to apparent crisis in institutions like the CBI and RBI.
The exit poll results have predicted BJP’s win in the state. Most pollsters believe that the coalition of BJP, Janata Dal (United) and the Lok Janshakti Party will win 30 or more out of 40 seats in the state. In Bihar, the BJP-led NDA alliance is up against the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance).
Patna Sahib constituency has six Assembly segments, out of which five– Patna Sahib (Nandkishor Yadav), Kumhrar (Arun Kumar Sinha), Bankipur (Nitin Nabin), Digha (Sanjiv Chaurasia) and Bakhtiarpur (Ranvijay Singh)–has elected BJP MLAs since the 2015 Assembly elections. The sixth seat, Fatuha, is held by RJD’s Rama Nand Yadav. Apart from Kayasthas, the OBC Banias, Muslims and Yadavs, are an influential vote bank in Patna Saheb, which has over 23 lakh voters.
In any case, the Kayasthas have never gone with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) nor the latter has ever tried to woo the community given the party’s role in bringing in the reservation system. Kayasthas, who are mostly literate and historically occupied the highest government and administrative offices during early medieval Indian kingdoms, the Mughal Empire and during the British rule as well, believe reservation has affected their position in society.
Ravi Nandan Sahay, national president of Akhil Bharatiya Kayastha Mahasabha, had told indianexpress.com, “Kayasthas have never been with the RJD as the party’s politics is focused on the backwards. The party has never supported the forward community. This is going to be a negative for Shatrughan Sinha.”
As BJP candidate, Sinha won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with 55.04 per cent (4,85,905) votes as against his nearest RJD rival Vijay Yadav’s 24.93 per cent (2,20,100) votes. In 2009, too, Sinha had won with 57.30 per cent (3,16,549) votes against the RJD. The Congress, which had then fielded TV personality Shekhar Suman, could get only 11.10 per cent (61,308) votes. In the 2014 elections, BJP had emerged as the single largest party in the state, winning 22 seats with a vote share of 29.9 per cent.
In the 2009 delimitation exercise, the original Patna Lok Sabha seat was bifurcated into two — while the urban seat was called Patna Saheb, named so after the birthplace of the Sikh religious leader Guru Gobind Singh, the semi-urban and rural areas of Patna now form the Pataliputra Lok Sabha seat. The Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system with EVMs was used for the first time in this Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 elections.
Refusing to talk about Sinha, Prasad in an exclusive interview with The Indian Express had said, “I am promoting a positive narrative of India. Resurgent India. Safe India. Secure India. As an IT minister, the digital revolution which I have brought…I have brought the metro train to Patna as a Union Cabinet Minister, Smart City to Patna…TCS is going to start its operations in Patna very soon. I have expanded the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) in Patna.” He said Shatrughan had been winning from the seat because of the BJP only.
On the other hand, Sinha, when asked if the incumbency factor will go against him this time as the BJP has fielded a known face, had told The Indian Express: “The kind of respect I get from all sections of people here, I feel connected to them. It could be a factor that could hurt public sentiments if I am not here. People here have known me, worked with me, a majority of them believe this constituency got name and fame due to Bihari Babu… I have fought for the city and brought development here.”