Simmering tension in Maoist-hit Imamganj constituency could well prove a tough challenge for security agencies as it goes to polls in the sixth and last phase of Bihar assembly elections on Saturday.
Campaigning will end tomorrow, but the usual hustle-bustle associated with electioneering is conspicuously missing.
“There will be no election campaigning in the interiors. Who will take the risk? Public meetings were held only in block headquarters of Dumaria, Imamganj and Banker Bazar,” says Shiv Shankar Singh, a close confidant of Bihar Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary who represents the constituency in the outgoing assembly.
Posters calling for poll boycott were found pasted even in Imamganj bazaar a few days back.
The fears are not unfounded. The ultras abducted three JD-U workers included Dumaria Block President of the party during campaigning in the first week of this month and killed one of them.
JD-U worker Amrendra Prasad’s body was thrown in a school campus, about 7 kms from Dumaria police station.
The Maoists had managed to halt voting in Chhakharbandha area even during the last poll which was held under the supervision of K J Rao, the Secretary of the then Chief Election Commissioner.
In Chhakharbandha, Arvan and Salaya, polling parties had failed to reach the booths. In Feb 2005 elections, three persons were killed in Dighasin. In the same election, LJP candidate and former Gaya MP Rajesh Kumar was shot dead by naxalites near Bikua More in the constituency.
Mr. Chaudhary has represented this constituency four times since 1990. He scored hat-trick by winning it three times since 2000. Even in 1995, he lost the election with a slender margin to Ramswaroop Paswan.
The former JD-U leader, however, has found the going tough this time with Maoists “banning” his entry in the assembly segment.
Ironically, Mr. Chaudhary has in the past been accused by his rivals of supporting Maoists. His name was also dragged into the killing former Gaya MP Rajesh Kumar, who was candidate against him in February 2005 Bihar polls on LJP ticket.
In the last election, Mr. Chaudhary defeated RJD’s Ramswaroop Paswan. This will the first election in last twenty years, when Mr. Paswan will not be contesting on any party ticket.
The contest in Imamganj appears a direct one between Mr. Chaudhary and Mr. Raushan Manjhi of RJD. Congress has fielded Mr. Sujeet Manjhi while BSP has given ticket to Mr. Mahendra Bhokta.
Fakirchand Das, who is contesting as an independent, is a popular face.
Mr. Chaudhary had won the last election with a margin of less than 7,000 votes. This was when RJD and LJP had fought separately.
Raushan Manjhi, then fighting on LJP ticket, had secured more than 10,000 votes. The Congress candidate had fetched over 20,000 votes even in last election.
Manjhis (Mushars) and Dangis (Koiris) are two dominant castes in the constituency followed by Muslims and the caste combinations suits the RJD-LJP combine more.
However, Mr. Chaudhary’s supporters claim that development agenda of Nitish Kumar government will prevail over caste considerations and help the Speaker sail through.
Imamganj is surrounded by Chatra, Hazaribagh and Palamu districrts of Jharkhand in east, south and west and Gaya district of Bihar in North.
After the division of the State, the region now falls in the extreme south of the State and borders the Naxal-hit and thickly forested areas of Jharkhand, which are part of the Red Corridor of CPI-Maoist.
This was precisely the region where ‘Sunlight Sena’, a private army of upper caste Muslim landlords, was founded by Shan-e-Ali Khan in 1991 in reaction to the Maoists’ rise in the area after they had begun losing their land.
Hundreds were killed in the caste war in the region and Bara, Lawabad, Belwar, Sobri, Bikopur, Tetwari, Manjholi, Salaya virtually turned into villages of widows. Their compensation issues are yet to be resolved completely.
Sena gradually disintegrated with a chunk of it merging with Ranveer Sena. However, Maoists’ writ still runs large in the constituency and has led to stopping of construction work at a number of places in the area.
Work is suspended on Morhar-Salaya river bridge which connects Manatu area of Palamu district in Jharkhand with Bihar. Saifganj-Anjan riverbridge, which would have brought down the distance between the States by around 40 kms, has also fallen prey to their dikat.