NALANDA: “This is Nalanda, the home district of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. His work and face are what wins votes here,” said 45-year-old Harnaut Shiv Kumar, who runs a sawmill. The constituency, 100 km east of state capital Patna, is famous for India’s most ancient university. But today it swears by ‘two Vikas purush’— Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar.
“The arithmetic and sentiment favour the Janata Dal-United (JD-U). Their work shows up everywhere,” Mundrika Kumar, a teacher in Biharsharif’s college said.
Called also ‘Kurmistan’ of Bihar for the preponderance of people of Nitish Kumar’s caste, who make 4% of voters in Bihar, Nalanda LS constituency has virtually, been a fiefdom of the CM since 1996.
Ask about the massive development — expressways, gun factory, archery stadium, industrial projects — which have come up in Kumar’s pet constituency and people are effusive. “Have you seen any road in a bad condition in the district? Wherever you go, you will find something or the other like a dairy, milk chilling plant, a new college or schools,” Dhiraj Kumar Singh of Harnaut said.
The Vikasheel Insan Party(VIP), led by Mukesh Sahni, has fielded AK Azad against the sitting MP Kaushalendra and is banking on the polarisation of Yadav, Sahni, Muslim and EBCs voters citing twin slogans ‘Lalu jail’ and ‘Modi fail.’ The latter slogan refers to the PM not fulfilling the promises he made in 2014.
“But there are few takers for these Mahagathbandhan slogans. The scenario here is that the NDA will have a cakewalk even if all castes consolidate against it,” said Kripa Shanker, a taxi-owner at Rajgir.
Locals in Rajgir said VIP’s candidate may get Congress votes, which retains a strong presence in Nalanda, besides RJD’s vote bank. Quoting a figure of 2014, a local poll-observer Dhirendra Kumar said at Ashthawan “Ashish Ranjan Sinha, ex-IPS and former DGP of Bihar, had contested on this seat in 2014 as a Congress candidate. He also belonged to Kurmi caste but polled 1, 27,270 votes. And the VIP candidate this time may hope to get these votes, besides the votes of Yadav, Muslim and other small castes”.
The LJP holds considerable electoral dominance in Nalanda, besides that of upper castes, which are in deciding numbers. Ramkrit Choudhary, a farmer said, Nalanda is one constituency where the NDA can be sure of winning.