Bihar polls: Striking gold on poll debut tough task for ace shooter Shreyasi Singh
JAMUI: She hit the bull's eye winning the Commonwealth Games shooting gold in 2018, but securing the pole position on her maiden election outing may not be easy for Shreyasi Singh, the daughter of former Union minister Digvijay Singh, as she faces a formidable rival in RJD's Vijay Prakash.
The 29-year-old champion shooter joined the BJP early this month and was soon nominated for the Jamui seat which votes in the first phase of the Bihar assembly polls on October 28.
Jamui assembly segment, a part of LJP president Chirag Paswan's Lok Sabha constituency, has become a high profile seat because of the the presence of a sports personality of international repute in the fray where 14 candidates are trying their luck.
The battle, however, is primarily between Singh, Prakash, and BJP rebel candidate Ajay Pratap, who is contesting on RLSP ticket.
A look at the existing social matrix shows that Rajputs and Yadavs are almost equal in number in the constituency that has an electorate of over 2.91 lakh.
While the BJP's nominee is a Rajput, her principal opponent is a Yadav.
The constituency also has significant population of Muslims, Dalits, including Paswans, the support base of the LJP, Extremely Backward Classes, OBCs, besides upper castes like Brahmins and Bhumihars.
Vijay Prakash (49), the sitting MLA, is a brother of former union minister Jai Prakash Narain Yadav, a close associate of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.
He served as a minister in the Grand Alliance government in 2015.
Due to the presence of Ajay Pratap and Sumit Kumar Singh, son of former state minister Narendra Singh, Rajput votes could see a division to the disadvantage of Shreyasi Singh.
But, locals said, some other factors are working in her favour.
Besides being young and a popular sports figure, she is one among the only two women candidates for the seat, the other being an Independent.
Shreyasi Singh also has the support of Chirag Paswan whose LJP has not fielded a candidate for the seat.
Paswan sent good wishes to his "younger sister" and appealed to the party workers to support her.
In addition to Paswans, Mushars, a Mahadalit community, which also has a sizeable number of voters in the constituency, are also favourably inclined towards her as its leader Jitan Ram Manjhi is a partner in the NDA.
The Dalits and other poor sections of the society, collectively called "Pachpaniya" locally, are rooting for her because they are ardent supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They said the Centre provided free foodgrains to the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic, three gas cylinders free of cost and Rs 500 in Jan Dhan accounts.
"We will support whosoever is the representative of Modi," Matloo Rajak, a native of Naukadih village said.
Arvind Thakur of neighbouring Bithalpur village echoed his sentiments.
Gender is also a positive factor for her.
Many women of even Yadav caste are rooting for Shreyasi Singh.
"Let the men of our family vote for a Yadav male, we will support 'behna' (sister) Shreyasi in this election," Renu Yadav of Lathane village said.
Sulochana Devi, of the same caste, also backed Singh.
Vijay Prakash is relying on the RJD's time-tested "MY" (Muslim Yadav) combination, which has proved to be a winning formula for the Lalu Prasad-led party in multiple elections.
However, the presence of a popular Muslim Independent candidate Shamshad Alam may upset his applecart by dividing the pro-RJD votes.
Prakash had won the seat in 2005, lost in 2010, but reclaimed it in 2015.
His supporters are banking on disgruntlement of a section of voters with the state government to see their leader through.
Several locals complained about lack development in the area.
"There are no industrial units, inadequate irrigation facilities, schools don't have the requisite number of teachers and people are forced to migrate to earn a living," said a resident.
At Jamui's Kachahari Chowk, a group of young men was discussing the unfolding electoral battle.
"They (the government) worked for improvement of road and electricity in the last few years, but education and migration for jobs remain matters of concern, said Naveen Raj.
Another young man Deepankar could not agree more.
"There is Garhi dam under the upper Kiul Jalashay Yojana, but farmers still face problems, he said.
Shreyasi Singh was in agreement with these young people.
She acknowledged that migration was indeed a major issue in the area.
She said she wants to become the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Aatmanirbhar" (self-reliant) Bharat initiative and work towards creating employment opportunities so that people don't have to migrate outside the state for livelihood.
Singh told PTI-Bhasha she wants to establish a sports authority here to make sports competitive and professional in Bihar.
RJD candidate Vijay Prakash is using unemployment and forced migration as weapons to attack the state government.
"Youths are demanding jobs but the government is just handing them out hollow promises," he said.
Though a greehorn in politics, Shreyasi Singh is toiling hard to win people's support.
Driving through weather-beaten roads and walking on dusty lanes, she approaches the young and the old with folded hands to seek their blessings, reminding people of the humility of her late father, who was a minister in the Chandra Shekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments.
Belonging to the erstwhile zamindar family of Giddhaur, Digvijay Singh was known to be a self-effacing man.
Following in the footsteps of her father, also the president of the National Rifle Association of India for several years, Shreyasi Singh shows the same grace as she stoops to conquer people's hearts.