Abhineta queers Neta’s pitch in Bihar’s Karakat

Pawan was earlier with the BJP and positioned himself as a rebel candidate against the NDA pick Upendra.
From left: Rajaram Singh, Pawan Singh, and Upendra Kushawha
From left: Rajaram Singh, Pawan Singh, and Upendra KushawhaIllustration: Mandar Pardikar

PATNA: When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” This old saying holds true for former Union minister and Rashtriya Lok Morcha (RLM) chief Upendra Kushwaha, the NDA candidate in Bihar’s Karakat Lok Sabha constituency. The seat is witnessing a close triangular fight after Bhojpuri actor-cum-singer Pawan Singh entered the fray as an Independent.

Pawan was earlier with the BJP and positioned himself as a rebel candidate against the NDA pick Upendra. He was expelled from the BJP sacked after he ignored the party’s order to stand down. He belongs to the dominant Rajput upper caste, the traditional vote bank of the NDA with an estimated strength of around 1.5 lakh.

Before the popular star’s entry, Upendra was pitted against CPI-ML’s Rajaram Singh. But the dramatic entry of Pawan, who has a huge fan following, alarmed NDA leaders. “The former had an edge considering the caste equation in the constituency,” says Dinesh Kushwaha, a resident of Dehri-on-Sone. Sensing trouble, the NDA brass called in Rajput leaders including Union defence minister Rajnath Singh, former MP and NDA candidate from Sheohar Lovely Anand, and MLC Sanjay Singh to campaign for Upendra, who had won Karakat in 2014.

The sitting MP is JD(U)’s Mahabali Singh, who had defeated Upendra in 2019 when the latter was contesting on a Rashtriya Lok Samta Party ticket. This time, Mahabali vacated the seat under NDA’s seat-sharing pact.

Caste is a major factor in this election as voters consider the victory of a candidate from their community a prestige issue. There are 2.40 lakh Kushwahas in the constituency followed by Yadavs (3.5 lakh), Brahmins (1 lakh), Bhumihars (80,000), Paswan (30,000) and Ravidas (1.5 lakh).

While Upendra is mainly banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and development works, Rajaram is relying on the Muslim-Yadav combination of RJD besides CPI-ML cadre votes. “We have a strong support base in the constituency,” claimed Subhankar Rai, a CPI-ML supporter.

On his part, Pawan promises to generate employment, promote organic farming, develop film industry, re-open closed factories, and establish IT park if elected. He has made the contest pretty colourful by roping in a host of Bhojpuri actors and singers, including Khesarari Lal Yadav, Pakhi Hedge, Manoj Tiger, Sona Singh, Shilpi Raj, Astha Singh, Aayaz Khan and Shivani Singh. It needs to be seen if the crowds will turn into votes.

(This is the concluding piece of the series that began on April 10, capturing the ground situation and giving readers a sense of the pulse ofthe nation.)

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