The North Bihar Lok Sabha seat is set to witness a close contest between BJP heavyweight Giriraj Singh, RJD’s Tanveer Hasan and controversial student leader Kanhaiya Kumar
Begusarai district, which is known as the industrial capital of Bihar for its fertiliser factories, thermal power plant and dairy industry, remains a communist stronghold and was once referred to as the ‘Leningrad of Bihar’.
The North Bihar Lok Sabha seat witnessed a close contest in the 2014 general elections between Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bhola Singh, Rashtriya Janta Dal’s (RJD) Tanveer Hassan and the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) Rajendra Prasad Singh. The BJP candidate emerged victorious, winning the seat by a four percent margin (approximately).
This year too, the contest will be heated as BJP heavyweight Giriraj Singh, Tanveer Hasan of RJD and controversial student leader Kanhaiya Kumar will be battling for the seat. Kumar will be contesting on a CPI ticket.
Giriraj, who was elected from the state’s Nawada constituency in 2014 is a well-known leader of the ‘Bhumihar community’, which is the largest voter base in Beguasarai. Kumar also belongs to this community, an upper caste that mostly consists of land lords. A chartered accountant belonging to community told Moneycontrol, “It looks difficult to split Bhumihar votes between BJP and CPI. If BJP’s Giriraj Singh wins, there is high chance of him becoming a minister, but the same cannot be said for Kanhaiya Kumar. Hence, voters could favour BJP.”
Moneycontrol caught up with Kumar while he was campaigning in Bihar. The 32-year-old firebrand former student leader said, “People of Begusarai will vote for a candidate who will be their voice and raise issues being faced by them. The people are not happy with the disparity in infrastructure and want to be heard in Parliament. Why does Begusarai not have a university? Why are there just nine teachers for 25,000 students? A fertiliser company is being sold to a private player that cannot create large number of jobs for locals, why is this being done.”
When asked how he planned to develop Begusarai, Kumar said, “This is one of the biggest events for democracy. We will be fighting for the rights of the people with the support of the people. We want to re-establish the faith of the masses in the political system. In the last five years, the people have dealt with various issues. The people’s attention has been diverted from the major ones. No one talks about mob violence, the ill treatment of students and the institutional murders are not being discussed. Farmer suicides are being ignored, non-performing assets (NPAs of banks) are being shelved. Around Rs 3.16 lakh crore of corporate debt has been waived off, while farmers have been given Rs 2 cheques as loan waivers. I will want these disparities to be resolved.”
Begusarai is devoid of numerous basic amenities such as well-equipped hospitals and educational institutions, the CPI candidate said and added, these are some of the facilities we want to make available for the people of Begusarai.
Replying to another query on the how he would convince the people to vote for someone from a party that has not won an election since 1996 from this seat, Kanhaiya said, “I am starting on a small level, even the BJP had won just two seats in an election and went on to win the 2014 election with a massive majority. We’re starting small and will reach our destiny with time.”
Moneycontrol spoke to a few villagers to understand who the people would favour this time around.
Ram Udagyir Singh, a neighbour of Kumar said, “The Modi government has done good work in the past five years. We have toilets, we have received cylinders and our village has roads now. Since 2004, a fertilizer factory was shut, but was resumed under the BJP’s regime. If [PM Narendra] Modi was contesting from our constituency then we would have definitely voted for him. But Kanhaiya [Kumar] is our child, we know it is difficult for him to win, but we will support him.”
Another tax practitioner identified as Abhishek Singh whose father is communist leader said, “Politics in Bihar is extremely different we always vote on the basis of caste that is why our state is where it is.”Whether it be caste politics, development or about working for the people, Kumar’s fate will be sealed on April 29, when people of the area exercise their right to vote, results of which will be declared on May 23.