Several workers were digging around Kesaria stupa, among the world’s tallest stupas that is believed to have been constructed between 250 BC and 450 AD. Digging resumed last December after it was stopped in 2004. Local residents believe that if the site is developed, it could be one of the biggest tourist centres in Bihar. However, successive governments at the Centre and local MPs seem to have shown little interest. Current BJP MP Radha Mohan Singh does get credit for renewing digging at the site, but it could be too late to win him some votes.
East Champaran Lok Sabha constituency is witnessing a keen contest between five-time BJP MP and Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) candidate Aakash Singh, son of former Union minister and Congress’s Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Prasad Singh.
Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Polling schedule, results date, constituency-wise election results, key candidates
Aakash decided to join politics from East Champaran seat, which won by his father in 2004 as an RJD nominee. Radha Mohan, who has tried to strike an emotional chord by announcing this is his last election, finds the contest tough because the social combination is evenly matched.
The Lok Sabha seat comprises about 1,80,00 upper-caste Bhumihars, 1,70,000 OBC Yadavs, 3,20,000 OBC Vaishyas, 1,50,000 OBC Kushwahas and EBC Mallah each, 2,10,000 Muslims, 70,000 upper-caste Rajputs, 60,000 Brahmins and 50,000 Kayasthas.
Sahendra Prasad Yadav of Lala Chhapra village said: “Kesaria stupa is a core issue for us. The digging work alone can employ 100 workers for five years…. Radha Mohan did activate the Centre to renew digging, but it is too late for him to win him votes.”
In upper-caste dominated Lauria village of Areraj, some residents said that most votes from their caste would go to the BJP, but RLSP’s Aakash, being a Bhumihar, would split votes of his caste.
“It is between choosing Narendra Modi and caste pride for people here,” said Nayan Pandey, a farmer. Munna Pandey, another Bhumihar voter, said: “The more Bhumihar votes Aakash gets, the more his chances of winning. His father has already visited us. So has Radha Mohan. People are divided.”
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At neighbouring Hardia village, some Grand Alliance workers were discussing how Mokama’s Independent MLA Anant Singh, who faces criminal cases, moving in Motihari might not benefit RLSP. “There was no need to call Anant to consolidate Bhumihar votes. Some Bhumihars have taken strong exception to it,” said a Congress worker.
There were signs of a split in Kushwaha votes. Awadhesh Kushwaha from Kobeya village under Harsiddhi Assembly segment said: “Both Central and state governments have done good workers for farmers. Most people are still with NDA, some people could vote on caste lines.”
For Radha Mohan, winning the seat is a matter of prestige. All eight North Bihar seats were won by the NDA in 2014. A senior BJP leader said: “Radha Mohan is up against a rookie, but he cannot afford to take it lightly, more so when he announced this as his last electoral battle.”
While Radha Mohan has been playing up the Modi factor, Aakash has been invoking his father’s association with Motihari.
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