Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Nawada prepare to vote on April 19 in the first of the seven-phase election in Bihar

While all four constituencies went to the NDA in 2019, the Opposition mahagathbandhan too is geared up for the complex voter composition, with the BSP candidate creating a tough battle for both major alliances in Aurangabad

April 15, 2024 05:59 pm | Updated 05:59 pm IST - Patna

Representational file image

Representational file image | Photo Credit: PTI

In the seven-phase Lok Sabha election in Bihar, which has 40 MPs in Parliament, the four constituencies of Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Nawada will vote in the first phase on April 19.

The fates of 38 candidates will be decided in these four constituencies, with Gaya having the maximum number of 14 candidates in the fray. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, all four seats went to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — the BJP in Aurangabad, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in Gaya, and the then united Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) from both Jamui and Nawada.

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In the 2024 election, the BJP has fielded its candidates for the Aurangabad and Nawada constituencies, with the Gaya (reserved) seat going to its ally, the Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S), and the Jamui (reserved) seat to another alliance partner, the Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party-Ram Vilas (LJP-RV).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked-off his election campaign in Bihar from Jamui on April 4, and addressed a public meeting in Nawada on April 7. He is scheduled to address another public meeting in Gaya on April 16.

Three-time MP from Aurangabad Sushil Kumar Singh stands against the Opposition mahagathbandhan candidate and new entrant Abhay Kushwaha, who is fighting on an RJD ticket.

Mr. Kushwaha was a JD(U) MLA from the Tekari Assembly constituency in 2015 but recently joined the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and was given the party’s ticket from the Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency.

Four out of six Assembly constituencies — Kutumba, Rafiganj, Aurangabad, and Gurua — are held by Opposition mahagathbandhan MLAs, while the remaining two — Imamganj and Tekari — are held by HAM(S), an ally of the NDA.

The upper caste Rajput-dominated Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat is called Bihar’s Chittorgarh for its Rajput dominance. However, the constituency also has a sizeable number of Other Backward Class (OBC) and Extremely Backward Class (EBC) voters, and keeping this in mind, the RJD has put up an OBC candidate.

The Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency has over 18 lakh voters — 25% of them are from the General Category, 20% are OBC, over 23% EBC, 20% are Scheduled Castes (SC), and 10% are Muslims. In the General Category, over 70% voters are Rajputs.

The Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) candidate Sunesh Kumar has made the battle for Aurangabad tough for both the NDA and mahagathbandhan candidates, observers said.

At Nawada, the BJP’s Vivek Thakur has a tough fight on his hands with Shrawan Kushwaha, the OBC mahagathbandhan candidate, and independent candidates Vinod Yadav and Bhojpuri singer Gunjan Singh as his opponents.

Earlier, the Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency was represented by firebrand BJP leader and Union Minister Giriraj Singh but in the 2019 General Election, the seat was won by then united LJP’s Chandan Singh. This time, the Nawada seat has fallen to the BJP under the NDA’s seat-sharing arrangements, and the party has fielded Vivek Thakur.

Pitching the local versus outsider angle, Mr. Shrawan Kushwaha has been saying, “jo yahan ka beta hoga, wohi yahan ka neta hoga“ (only a local will lead). Mr. Thakur, who comes from Patna district, has played down the issue as “insignificant”.

Both Mr. Thakur and Mr. Kushwaha are contesting a Lok Sabha election for the first time.  Mr. Thakur is campaigning on the NDA’s development plank while Mr. Shrawan Kushwaha underlines the “lack of development, industry, and good hospital facilities and schools” in the constituency.

From the Gaya (reserved) seat, HAM(S)‘ Jitan Ram Manjhi is pitted for the NDA against the mahagathbandhan’s Kumar Sarvajeet of the RJD. Mr. Manjhi, 79, a former Chief Minister of Bihar, is trying his luck from the Gaya Lok Sabha constituency for the fourth time, while Mr. Sarvajeet, 49, is the RJD’s sitting MLA from Bodh Gaya and a former State Agriculture and Tourism Minister. His father, the late Rajesh Kumar, became an MP after defeating Mr. Manjhi in the 1991 Lok Sabha election, and his father’s murder in 2005 resulted in Mr. Sarvajeet’s plunge into politics. “Now, I’ll defeat him (Mr. Manjhi) in his fourth attempt,” Mr. Sarvajeet said.

Also in the fray is the BSP’s Sushma Kumari, who is banking on the sizeable chunk of EBC voters in the constituency that has six Assembly segments — Bodh Gaya, Gaya town, Sherghati, Barachatti, Belaganj, and Wazirganj.

Over 30% of the voters in the Gaya Lok Sabha constituency belong to the Scheduled Castes (SC).

The Gaya Lok Sabha constituency includes the internationally renowned Buddhist site of Bodh Gaya, and the town of Gaya which is sacred to Hindus for pilgrimages to perform ancestral rites. The biggest issue in the constituency has been water scarcity in the summer.

From the Jamui (reserved) seat, LJP-RV chief Mr. Chirag Paswan’s has fielded his brother-in-law Arun Bharti, against mahagathbandhan candidate Archana Ravidas of the RJD. Ms. Ravidas is the wife of the local RJD leader Mukesh Yadav, and is contesting the Lok Sabha election for the first time.

Mr. Chirag Paswan has been the MP from Jamui twice, in 2014 and 2019, but this time, he is contesting from his late father Ram Vilas Paswan’s stronghold, the Hajipur (reserved) seat in Vaishali district.

Mr. Bharti is not popular in the constituency but BJP supremo Prime Minister Narendra Modi is. “I do not know Mr. Bharti but yes, our PM is doing very good job and I would like to give him another chance to serve the country by voting for the NDA candidate,” Mahesh Prasad, 50, a casual labourer in Jhajha, said.

Out of over 17 lakh voters, the Jamui (reserved) seat comprises nearly 2.5 lakh EBC voters, with an equal number of OBC Yadav voters, and Koeri, Kurmi and Dhanuk voters. The constituency, spread over the three districts of Munger, Jamui and Sheikhpura, and six Assembly segments of Tarapur, Sheikpura, Sikandra, Jamui, Jhajha and Chakai, also has about 1.5 lakh Muslim voters.

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