Outsider, insider slug it out for Khagaria battle

Curtains on the electioneering will come down on May 5 evening for facilitating polls on May 7 in the third phase.
Express illustrations
Express illustrations

KHAGARIA : With the return of Left after nearly a three-decade hiatus in the Lok Sabha fray, the Khagaria constituency in Bihar is witnessing an exciting but challenging fight between two young debutants -- Rajesh Verma of NDA-supported LJP (RV) and Sanjay Kumar Kushwaha representing Mahagathbandhan partner CPM.

Both the contestants are young, first-timers in the race for the parliamentary polls and belong to two dominant OBC castes -- Kushwaha and Sonar (goldsmith). While Kushwaha is the third dominant community in Khagaria after Muslim and Yadav communities, Sonar ranks fifth.

Amid heightened electioneering, flags either red (Left) or bearing the image of a helicopter -- LJP (RV) adorn main points in the city and rural areas.

Curtains on the electioneering will come down on May 5 evening for facilitating polls on May 7 in the third phase.

“The land of makka (maize, which is the prime crop of this district) now is flooded with the red flags virtually turning it into a ‘Red-land”, said Ravindera Sharma, a local Hindi teacher. With both the candidates being greenhorns, the senior leaders of both the political blocks - NDA and the Mahagathbandhan -- are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the victory of their candidates.While the NDA–supported LJP candidate Rajesh Verma is banking upon the vote bank for BJP and JDU as per the set social- -engineering of NDA, Sanjay Kumar Kushwaha (CPM) of the Mahagathbandhan is relying on RJD’s MY(Muslim Yadav) equation with an additional back up from Kushwaha and Mallah communities.

Mukesh Sahni -- who heads the VSIP (Vikashsheel Insaan party), is back with RJD in Mahagatbandhan. The CPIM, which once had a stronghold across the Khagaria, expects vast votes from the Mallah (fishermen)community.

Twelve candidates are in the fray from various castes for this seat. Apart from LJP and CPM, the BSP has also fielded Dr Ravi Kumar, besides other candidates, including three independents. In the last two elections with Narendra Modi as the poll mascot of NDA, the united LJP, as part of the NDA, had fielded a Muslim candidate, Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser, who won the seat in 2014 and 2019 polls.

The locals say, “The fight is tough between Kushwaha and Verma. Despite Verma hailing from the goldsmith community, Kushwaha appears to be giving him tough competition as the seat has a dominant population of Yadav and Muslim voters.

Development issues have taken a backseat while the caste equations and their polarisation emerged as the deciding factor. Kushwaha constitutes the third most populous community here, but what has given Verma a tough time is his being an outsider in the district. Khagaria has around 18 lakh voters, with the Muslims alone accounting for around 3 lakh electorate, Yadav 2.6 lakh and Kushwaha 1.5 lakh.

“The fourth deciding population in Khagaria is Mallah (fishermen), about 2 lakh, and this time Viksasheel Insaan Party, led by Mukesh Sahni, is with RJD-led Mahagatbandhan. Naturally, 50 to 60% votes of this community are likely to go to the CPM candidate”, claimed Roshan Paswan, who runs a private coaching centre.

An issue of ‘Outsider versus insider’ has gripped the landscape of Khagaria. Verma is not as much known to the people as Sanjay Kumar. But what makes the people not overlook Verma is that LJP® has fielded him. Khagaria is the home district of Chirag Paswan”, said social activist Surendra Yadav.

Khagaria has earned the distinction of being the only Bihar seat won by NDA’s Muslim face in 2019. Now, after denying the ticket, sitting MP Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser has deserted LJP® and joined RJD.

Though he is not contesting, he leaves no stone unturned to ensure the victory of CPM candidate Sanjay Kumar. Kaiser was elected twice from this Yadav and Muslim-dominated LS seat-first in 2014 and 2019 on the ticket of the then-united Lok Janshakti Party. Of Khagaria’s 18 lakh voters, an estimated 2.25 lakh are Muslims, followed by 2.5 lakh Yadav voters and over one lakh each from Kushwaha and Mallah communiti es.

“If CPM candidate manages to cut into the votes of his caste—Kushwaha--, it will be easier for him to win the elections,” said Bharat Kumar Kushwaha, a resident of Alouli.

Key issue

Flood has emerged as an issue in the region. People have complained against the failure of government in bringing a permanent solution to it. More than 5 blocks are flood prone in Khagaria. Over 5-6 lakh people are affected every year.

  • Total villages: 36

  • Total voters: 18L

  • Male : 8,83,786

  • Female : 7,83,100

  • Religious communities include Hindus (89.21%), followed by Muslims (10.53%. Among others were Christian (0.08%), Sikh (0.01%) and Jain (0.01%)

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