Vaishali: Bahubalis hold sway in cradle of democracy

“Development is no issue. Caste is the only factor that matters in Vaishali,” said Bibhuti Pandey of Bahilwara village in Paroo assembly segment.
Vaishali: Bahubalis hold sway in cradle of democracy

PATNA: Vaishali Lok Sabha constituency, considered the cradle of democracy, is set to witness an electoral battle between a ‘Bahubali’ (strongman) and wife of a JD (U) MLC known for his muscle power in north Bihar. The seat will go to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

LJP (Ram Vilas) has fielded incumbent MP Veena Devi, wife of JD (U) MLC Dinesh Singh, and RJD has pinned hopes on the muscle power of former MLA Vijay Kumar Shukla alias Munna Shukla. His brother Chotan Shukla was an influential leader of Bihar People’s Party led by former MP Anand Mohan Singh.

Veena is Rajput and Shukla Bhumihar, both politically dominant castes. Veena is facing anti-incumbency and Shukla is using lack of development as a poll issue. The MP is relying on PM Modi’s popularity and Centre’s development works.

“Development is no issue. Caste is the only factor that matters in Vaishali,” said Bibhuti Pandey of Bahilwara village in Paroo assembly segment.

Bipul Kumar, who runs a grocery shop on Turki-Saraiya road, said he had never seen Veena Devi after she was elected. “In 2019, she won due to Modi wave. But this time, she is pitted against a formidable candidate,” Kumar added.

Murari Pandey claimed that the RJD candidate has a fair chance of getting elected. “He is very popular among all castes due to his accessibility while the MP has never visited the constituency after she won the election,” he said.

Veena had defeated RJD veteran Raghuvansh Prasad Singh in 2019. In 2014, LJP’s Rama Kishore Singh, another muscleman, had defeated Raghuvansh, who died in 2020. Raghuvansh, who served as a minister in the Manmohan Singh government, had won from the seat in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009. People used to call him ‘Barham Baba’ for being easily available.

Musclemen or their spouses had tried their luck from Vaishali, believed to be the first republic in the world, in the past too.

This seat has also sent women candidates to Lok Sabha many times. Kishori Sinha, wife of former CM Satyendra Narayan Sinha, had represented the seat in 1980 and 1984, and Usha Sinha in 1989. Lovely Anand, wife of muscleman Anand Mohan, had represented the seat after a 1994 bypoll.

Veena was comfortably placed in Vaishali constituency until RJD fielded Shukla. Now, it depends how much Shukla will cut into Bhumihar votes (BJP’s traditional vote bank) and whether a section of Yadavs vote in favour of NDA candidate under the influence of Modi’s popularity.

Arun Kumar Singh, a retired political science professor of BRA Bihar University in Muzaffarpur, claimed that RJD candidate Shukla would not be able to make a dent into Bhumihar votes as there was an ‘undercurrent’ in favour of Modi.

He said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav is not a factor in Lok Sabha election as the huge crowds at his public meetings could be due to several other reasons, including a candidate’s own personal efforts. “Tejashwi will be considered only in the assembly election,” he added.

Political analyst Mahant Rajiv Ranjan Das said a section of Yadavs might vote in favour of NDA candidate as they did it in Lok Sabha elections in the past too. “There could also be consolidation of Rajput votes in favour of NDA candidate in case there is any division of Bhumihar votes,” Das said.

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