PATNA: Caste arithmetic seems to have replaced all issues of development in North Bihar’s Valmikinagar, West and East Champaran parliamentary constituencies, which go to polls on May 12. Both the NDA and the Mahagathbandhan have polarised voters on caste lines, which otherwise are non-existent.
“In Valmikinagar, JD(U) Baidyanath Mahto and Congress’ Shaswat Kedar are locked in a grim fight, though there is no mention of development,” said a private school principal. A large number of tribals live inside the Valmikinagar Tiger Reserve’s core area. They fear eviction. The woes of sugarcane farms are another ‘ignored’ issue.
Comprising six Assembly segments, Valmikinagar is dominated by SC voters followed by ST, Brahmins and Mahto. In 2014, Satish Chandra Panday won with 3.64 lakh votes against his Congress rival. “This time, BJP-JDU-LJP are together to the Congress’ disadvantage. Nitish Kumar’s work has created a soft corner among SC-ST voters,” said a timber trader.
Congress’ Shaswat Kedar is banking on traditional votes, besides those of Mahagathbandhan allies. Division in SC, EBC and ST may benefit him. There are 3 lakh tribal Tharus and an equal number of Muslims in Valmikinagar. Their polarisation will have a direct bearing on the results.
In West Champaran, where BJP’s Sanjay Jaiswal and RLSP’s Brajesh Kushwaha are locked in a fierce battle, caste is again the dominant call. There are 1.30 lakh Kushwahas, 80,000 each of Kurmis and Brahmins and about 40,000 Rajputs. The result, however, will depend on division among Yadavs and Kushwahas.
In Motihari, political equations and social engineering have changed. Union minister Radha Mohan Singh, the sitting MP, is locked with RLSP’s debutant Akash Kumar Singh. Altogether 22 candidates are in the fray. But, it is all about the consolidation of Muslim-Yadav versus NDA’s traditional supporters, including Brahmins, Bhumihars and Rajputs.