Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may have been reiterating in his virtual and actual poll campaign meetings that rule of law has been established in the State in the last 15 years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime, but come election time and Bihar appears as it was in 1990s — when bahubalis (strongmen) made headlines. In this Assembly poll, too, almost all the parties have fielded similarly fearsome “dons”, or their wives, to add extra numbers to their final winning tally.
In the first phase poll for 71 seats on October 28, out of 353 candidates, 164 have a tainted image, with serious criminal cases of murder, attempt to murder, extortion, rape and kidnapping arrayed against them. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) tops the list, followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
The RJD candidate from the Mokama Assembly constituency, Anant Singh, faces as many as 38 criminal cases of murder, extortion, kidnapping, and possession of illegal weapons. He is currently lodged in jail and had won the previous 2015 Assembly poll from Mokama as an Independent candidate. Earlier, he had represented the constituency in 2005 and 2010 on a JD(U) ticket. Not willing to take the risk of his disqualification on any grounds, his wife Neelam Devi too has filed her nomination from the same seat as an Independent candidate.
Similarly, the RJD surprised everyone by giving a ticket in the last hour to a dreaded criminal-turned-politician from Danapur, Ritlal Yadav, who faces 33 criminal cases of murder, extortion and money laundering. Ritlal Yadav is the main accused in the murder of former BJP leader Satyanarayan Sinha in 2003. Sinha’s widow Asha Singh has been winning the Danapur Assembly seat for the last three consecutive terms on a BJP ticket, and this time she will be facing Ritlal Yadav to continue her winning streak. Yadav was released from Patna’s Beur jail in August this year, after being granted bail by the Patna High Court in a money laundering case.
Earlier, the RJD had roped in Karisma Rai, a cousin of RJD party leader Tej Pratap Yadav’s estranged wife Aishwarya Rai, to contest the poll from the Danapur seat, and she had started meeting people from the area for quite some time, but was denied the ticket at the last moment. “Such is the clout of dreaded criminal Ritlal Yadav in the RJD,” quipped a local BJP leader in Danapur.
The Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik) has fielded a former Maoist Sudhir Kumar Verma, who faces 37 criminal cases, from the Gurua Assembly constituency in Gaya district.
The RJD candidate from the Atri Assembly constituency, Ajay Yadav, and the JD(U) candidate from Belaganj, Abhay Kumar Singh, face 14 criminal cases each.
The LJP has given a ticket to Hulas Pandey from the Brahmpur seat. He is the younger brother of dreaded criminal-turned-politician Sunil Pandey, and also faces several criminal cases of murder, attempt to murder and extortion.
However, many of the bahubalis (strongmen) facing serious criminal cases and unable to get party tickets to contest the polls have switched over to proxies by projecting their wives as candidates. “This is a dangerous trend in democracy but not a new phenomena for the Bihar elections,” said political analyst Ajay Kumar.
Vibha Devi, wife of former RJD MLA and rape accused Raj Ballabh Yadav, has been given a party ticket to contest polls from the Nawada seat, while Kiran Devi, wife of absconding sitting RJD MLA Arun Kumar Yadav, has been given the RJD ticket from Sandesh constituency.
Similarly, Veena Singh, wife of another bahubali turned politician Ramakishor Singh, is contesting the poll from the Mahnar seat in Vaishali district on an RJD ticket. It was Ramakishor Singh’s likely induction into the party that was vehemently opposed by the late Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, senior RJD leader and party MP for several terms from the Vaishali Lok Sabha seat, who died recently at a Delhi hospital. After his death, Ramkishor Singh managed to get an RJD ticket for his wife.
Both former MP Lovely Anand and her son Chetan Anand got RJD tickets for the Saharsa and Sheohar Assembly constituencies. Lovely Anand is the wife of imprisoned don-turned- neta Anand Mohan Singh, who is serving a life sentence in the Saharsha jail in connection with the murder case of a District Magistrate G. Krishnaiah in 1994 in Muzaffarpur town.
The ruling JD(U), too, has fielded wives of several bahubali s like Manoranjan Singh Dhumal, Awadhesh Mandal and Bindi Yadav from the Ekma, Rupauli and Atri Assembly constituencies, respectively.
The JD(U) has also given a ticket to Manju Verma from the Cheria-Bariyarpur seat — Ms. Verma had to resign from CM Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet as Social Welfare Minister after she, along with her husband Chandrashekhar Verma, was sent to jail in connection with the infamous Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case.
The BJP has fielded Aruna Devi, wife of bahubali Akhilesh Singh, from the Nawada seat. Singh faces 27 criminals cases, including the Chakwai village massacre in Nawada district in which 10 people were killed in 2004.