Siwan may spring surprise in LS polls

Md Shahabuddin’s shadow looms over birthplace of first President Rajendra Prasad & Bihar’s first education minister
Siwan may spring surprise in LS polls

PATNA: Siwan, which acquired the distinction of being the birthplace of the country’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Bihar’s first education minister Maulana Mazharul Haque, may spring a surprise in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections if initial indications are to be believed.

Hena Shahab, 48, wife of don-turned-politician late Mohammad Shahabuddin, is contesting the election as an independent from Siwan, which will vote in the sixth phase on May 25.

Shahabuddin, who won four times from the seat to become an MP between 1996 and 2004, is no more but his supporters are jubilant over Hena Shahab’s decision to contest.

For the first time, her supporters dotting ‘bhagwa’ and yellow clothes accompanied her in election campaign. She had unsuccessfully contested elections thrice in 2009, 2014 and 2019 on the RJD ticket.

Hena refused to accept Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s offer to contest election on the party symbol and instead chose an independent path. Her entry has made the fight triangular. While RJD has fielded 69-year-old former Bihar assembly Speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary, JD(U) has fielded Vijaylaxmi Devi, wife of former MLA Ramesh Singh Kushwaha. Vijaylaxmi, 61, is making her debut.

JD(U) MP Kavita Singh was denied the ticket this time. As a result, Vijay Singh, elder brother of muscleman Ajay Singh, is seen campaigning in favour of Hena Shahab.

Ajay, once considered close to Shahabuddin, who people popularly called him ‘Saheb’, is the husband of Kavita Singh and the family still enjoys immense influence in political circles in the Siwan-Gopalganj region.

Awadh Bihari Choudhary, MLA from Siwan Sadar, is the choice of Lalu Prasad. Choudhary is also contesting the polls for the first time. His relation with Shahabuddin’s family was cordial till the RJD former MP was alive. Shahabuddin died in 2021 in Tihar Jail while serving sentence in the murder of two brothers. The former MP was infected with Covid-19 which led to his death.

The relations with Shahabuddin’s family got strained as neither any RJD senior leader visited Shahabuddin’s Pratappur village in Siwan nor did it organise any meeting paying tributes to the leader. Shahabuddin was a founder member of RJD.

“I am in the fray to win. I have been getting support from all sections of society, including upper caste Hindus. My husband had worked a lot for the development of Siwan. No work is visible after his death,” she said.

Manoj Pratap Singh, 57, who runs a medical store, on Siwan-Maharajganj road, said that Hena Shahad will dent into the votes of both NDA and Grand Alliance this time.

That’s why the candidates of both NDA and Grand Alliance are worried about the outcome of the election this time. JD(U) nominee Vijaylaxmi is hopeful of getting people’s support on ‘Modi’s popularity’ and CM

Nitish Kumar’s development works. On the other hand, RJD candidate Awadh Bihari Choudhary is promising jobs. He is also raising the issues of price rise and threat to the

Constitution and existing reservation quota. He is relying more on RJD’s MY (Muslim-Yadav) vote bank.

JD(U)’s Vijaylaxmi’s husband is more vocal compared to his wife. Ramesh Singh Kushwaha said, “We have PM Modi on the one hand and CM Nitish Kumar on the other.

The two leaders are known as ‘performers’ at their respective positions,” he said while reminding people of RJD’s ‘jungle raj’.

RJD candidate Choudhary said that he is locked in a direct contest with the NDA candidate. “Who will vote for others (read Independent candidate)?,” he asked in an oblique reference to Hena Shahab.

As per caste combination, Muslims population stands at 3.25 lakh, Yadav at 2.5 lakh, Kushwaha at 1.25 lakh, Sahnis at 1 lakh, upper caste Hindus at 4 lakh (out of which 2 lakh are Rajputs) EBCs at 2.5 lakh. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are also in sizable numbers.

Siwan comprises six assembly segments, including Siwan, Jiradei, Darauli, Raghunathpur, Darauda and Barharia. It remains to be seen whether Hena Shahab succeeds in reviving the lost ‘glory’ of Mohammad Shahabuddin, once the uncrowned king of Siwan.

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