BEGUSARAI: The famous Kanwar Lake Bird sanctuary and ancient temples of the Pala and Sena dynasty era define Begusarai on the old Sher Shahi military highway. Now a constituency, Begusarai has had a long Red history because of the early establishment of an oil refinery and a fertiliser factory and consequent trade union politics.
In this welter of socialist, communist and liberal politics, new caste arithmetic and shrill-rightist nationalism have been inducted, besides the plea of a secular vote. This has made for a tough electoral battle for Union Minister Giriraj Singh of the BJP and Kanhaiya Kumar of the CPI.
Like migratory birds, which flock to this constituency, the headquarters town is now seeing an influx of political migrants, including Bollywood personalities, intellectuals, professors and political activists — all intent on making Begusarai a laboratory for clashing philosophies.
The basics, however, are controlled by just one caste — the Bhumihars, who number over 4.5 lakh of the around 19 lakh voters.
With two Bhumihar candidates in fray — Giriraj and Kanhaiya — most expect that the results depend on which way the caste goes. Possible consolidation of the Muslim-Yadav and liberal Hindu voters provide for a third alternative in the Mahagathbandhan candidate, Tanveer Hassan of the RJD, another JNU alumnus.
A section of the people alleges that the “too loud” BJP candidate Giriraj and the “equally loud” Kanhaiya have been getting on the nerves of many.
Irrepressible Giriraj created a twist in the tale Tuesday when he alleged Kanhaiya’s campaigns used green flags — associated with the religious sentiments of a community — thus trying to plant a communal wedge among the electorate.
“Green flags should be banned,” he said alleging that the CPI candidate was trying to ignite Muslim sentiments.
“Like the Kanwar Jheel, Begusarai is attracting different political birds from across the country. Their aim is to polarise the backward castes to balance a possible split in Bhumihar votes so that their candidate wins,” wildlife activist Pankaj Kumar Chaudhary said.
Lallan Kumar, a Leftist ideologue, however, believes that Begusarai is all set to witness a straight fight between the CPI and BJP candidates. Prakash Raj, the Bollywood actor, said Kanhaiya has been able to carry the poor and he would win.
While Kanhaiya’s bandwagon of JNU students and intellectuals and artists have fanned across the constituency for a massive door-to-door campaign, BJP candidate Giriraj Singh said he had dedicated himself to the people of Begusarai.
“My victory is that of Narendra Modi which is what the nation wants,” he said adding, “Kanhaiya is the ideologue of the tukde-tukde gang”.
At Manjhaul — one of the seven assembly segments of Begusarai — Ram Naresh Singh, 69, a local landlord, said PM Narendra Modi recently laid the foundation stone for a Rs 300 crore project in Begusarai. “We are not taken in by the BJP candidate but by Modi,” he said.
Runa Rai, an owner of 10 oil tankers, said Pakistan, terrorism and individual accusations have figured more than the issues of development during campaigning. “But nationalism will have an edge over communalism and Communism,” he added.
Despite the oil refinery plant, development in the interiors of Begusarai has not taken place. It is why the massive electrification of villages under Nitish Kumar has impressed Niraj Kumar, 31, who works in a city hotel. “Electricity is enough to fetch votes for the BJP candidate,” he said.
“Earlier, we faced power shortage to such an extent that the business of generators was booming. Now, we have power for 22 hours,” he added.
Abhyuday Kumar, 27, a youth of Begusarai, said, the power supply will help NDA get votes.
Sheela Kumari, 23, who manages Hotel Sayonara’s front office said, “There are no issues this election, only allegations and accusations. But we would like to cast our votes for development.”
Kanhaiya Kumar, who has hit the campaign trail with a vengeance, said, “Development of a human being comes with the protection of his fundamental rights. I am awakening the people and will win the seat,” he claimed.
Tanveer Hassan, the RJD candidate, said the voters are already fed up with the two loudmouth rivals. “RJD votes won’t split and the split in other castes will ensure my victory,” he said.