MOKAMA: Peace is the poll slogan in this land of 'bahubalis' (musclemen) with candidates, even those with criminal past or legacy, promising rule of law in the region.
In front of the police station in Mokama bazaar is a poster of don-turned-politician Anant Singh, the sitting MLA, which reads, "Shanti, Vikas wa bhaichaara, Yahi Hia Chhote Sarkar K Naara" (peace, development and brotherhood, this is the poll slogan of Chhote Sarkar).
The poster of NDA candidate Kanhaya Singh, who is younger brother of 'bahubali' former MP Surajbhan, says 'Mokama me shaanti ham ne laayi hai, iske liye ham ne jaan ki baazi lagayi hai (we have brought peace in Mokama staking our life for it)'. Kanhaya Singh is fighting the polls on LJP ticket.
But for many, Anant, who has a penchant for horses and keeping wild animals as pets besides sporting trendy goggles and dresses, is a "protector".
Anant, who has a Robin Hood persona in the region, resigned from JD(U) after a political controversy broke out over the murder of a Yadav youth in which his close associates were jailed. RJD chief Lalu Prasad attacked him publicly and Anant was finally sent behind bars in a kidnapping case of a builder.
Leaflets of Anant in shackles are being distributed in the constituency to create a sympathy wave and his wife Neelam Devi is touring villages telling people how "Chhote Sarkar", as he is known as in the region, was "victimised" after "having done so much" for Nitish Kumar's government.
Anant is contesting as an Independent candidate from behind the bars. His supporters claim he had played a crucial role in ensuring the exit of a defiant Jitan Ram Manjhi as chief minister in favour of Nitish Kumar.
"This is a fight between Sarkar and Chhote Sarkar," says one of his supporters in Mokama.
"Mokama was a land of gang wars. Ironically, it is the so-called 'bahubalis' who brought a semblance of order here," says Ajay Rai, a school teacher and social worker who had in past worked for Surajbhan for over a decade but is now working for Anant.
The grand alliance candidate is Neeraj Kumar, who is an MLC and spokesperson of the JD(U).
Considered a suave face, Kumar's slogan to people is "Kalam aur bandook ki jung, aap rahenge kiske sang" (It is a fight between sword and the pen. Whom will you ally with?) But his opponents say he did not work in the area and lacks connect with voters.
Mokama is one of the 14 constituencies in Patna district going to polls on October 28. Located at a distance of 90 km in the east of Patna, Mokama was believed to be the resting place or 'mukam' (destination) of armies moving along the river Ganges during the Mughal and British periods.
The area has most of the times been represented by a 'bahubali', especially in the past three decades. Surajbhan contested as an Independent and won the seat in 2000, wresting it from Anant's elder brother Dilip Singh, who had represented the seat in 1990 and 1995. He then became MP from Balia in 2004 and the seat fell vacant.
Anant contested the seat as Dilip Singh had by then died. Since then the seat remained with Anant.
Five main candidates in the constituency are from the Bhumihar community, which has maximum votes in the region followed by that of Yadav, Paswan, Kurmi, extremely backwardcastes and mahadalits, Rajputs and Muslims.
Bhumihars constitute somewhat between 80,000-90,000 voters among the total 2.52 lakh voters in Mokama.
Janadhikar Party candidate Lalan Singh, once Man Friday of Surajbhan, had contested from Mokama twice and also fielded his wife unsuccessfully against Anant.
He now grudges that Surajbhan did not campaign for him as passionately as he is doing this time for his own brother.
"Anant Singh was gradually losing his popularity and winning the election this time may have been difficult for him. But the caste polarisation in the aftermath of Putus Yadav murder case could help him. Bhumihars now seem to be solidly behind him," claims Ram Pravesh Singh.
Ramratan Yadav of Paijana village, who had come to attend an election rally of Janadhikar Party leader Pappu Yadav at Ghoshwari in favour his candidate Lalan Singh, however, disagrees.
"Three fourth of Yadav votes will go to Neeraj. Neeraj Babu is gentle. He will also get Bhumihar votes but not many," he claims.
If Neeraj manages to get votes of both Kurmis and Yadavs along with Muslims, he may have a smooth sail with some sections of extremely backward votes.
Kalo Devi from the Dalit Dhaandi community of Ghoshwari village says that the Paswans, Mushhars and Daandhis will vote for NDA candidate.
The logic is that Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP and Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM-Secular are with the NDA. But beneath the caste cosmetic is also the agonising scream for basic facilities.
"Others have got two-three hand pumps installed at their homes. I do not have even one and they do not allow me to fetch water from theirs," she says.
As Anant's wife Neelam Devi campaigns in the Bhumihar- dominated Samyagarh village, she is followed by a large number of youths mostly from her community.
"Maa bahno par atyachar, nahin sahenge 'Chhote Sarkar' (Chhote Sarkar will not tolerate atrocities against mothers and sisters)," the slogan rents the air in the village whose walls adorn the leaflets bearing the same slogan as well photos of Anant Singh in shackles.
Pappu Yadav, whose Jan Adhikar Party has fielded a number of candidates in the region, ridicules the "Chhote Sarkaar" title to him.
"Who gave him the name of Chhote Sarkaar. How did he became Chhote Sarkar," he asks, while addressing a meeting in Mokama's notorious Taal region.