Heirs, veterans test their might in phase 5 in Bihar

Five seats go to the polls in the State on May 20. Of the 80 candidates in the fray, 13 face serious criminal cases, three contestants have cases related to crime against women, one faces rape charges

Updated - May 16, 2024 03:12 am IST

Published - May 16, 2024 02:32 am IST - Patna

RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav during an election rally in support of his sister and party candidate Rohini Acharya in Saran on May 14, 2024.

RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav during an election rally in support of his sister and party candidate Rohini Acharya in Saran on May 14, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Rohini Acharya, the Singapore-based daughter of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, is the richest candidate in the poll fray in Bihar in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha election. She has declared assets worth ₹36 crore.

After Ms. Acharya, Congress candidate Ajay Nishad (₹29 crore) and the BJP’s Raj Bhushan Choudhary (₹16 crore), both contesting the Muzaffarpur seat, are among the richest contestants in this phase.

On May 20, five constituencies — Saran, Hajipur, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani and Sitamarhi — vote to decide the fate of 80 candidates. Among the contestants, 13 face serious criminal cases, for which maximum punishment is of five years or more, while 15 others face criminal cases. Three candidates have cases related to crime against women. While one of them faces rape charges, five candidates face attempt to murder charges. Eight of the 80 candidates are graduate professionals, while 14 are postgraduates. Six have declared themselves ‘literate’, nine matriculate and 17 graduates.

Saran used to be a RJD bastion from where Mr. Prasad had won the Lok Sabha election thrice. In 1977-79, he went to the Parliament from the erstwhile Chhapra seat on a Janata Party ticket. Later, he won the Assembly election from Sonepur, under Saran, in 1980 and in 1985. Mr. Prasad became an MP again in 1989 but resigned in 1990 to become Chief Minister. In 2009, he contested the Lok Sabha election from Saran and won. His wife, Rabri Devi, though, lost the seat in 2014 to the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy. In 2019, the RJD fielded Chandrika Rai, the now estranged father-in-law of Mr. Prasad’s son Tej Pratap Yadav. But Mr. Rai, who comes from an influential Yadav family in the area and whose father Daroga Prasad Rai was a Chief Minister of Bihar, lost to Mr. Rudy. This year, following a marital discord between Mr. Tej Pratap and his wife, Mr. Chandrika has come in support of Mr. Rudy. The RJD has fielded Ms. Acharya, who had donated her kidney to Mr. Prasad. Saran has an almost equal number of backward Yadavs and the upper caste Rajput voters. The Yadavs often support Mr. Prasad while the Rajputs have been galvanising in favour of Mr. Rudy.

In the Hajipur (reserved) seat, the contest is between Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) leader Chirag Paswan and RJD candidate Shiv Chandra Ram. The united Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and its founder the late Ram Vilas Paswan had represented Hajipur eight times. In the 2019 election, Paswan had fielded his younger brother Pashupati Kumar Paras, who too won the seat.

Mr. Chirag was elected from another reserved seat in Bihar, Jamui. But, a year after Paswan’s death in October 2020, the LJP split into two factions: Mr. Chirag-led LJP (Ram Vilas) and the Mr. Paras-led Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party. Mr. Paras was Minister in the Union cabinet but when BJP teamed up with Mr. Chirag in Bihar for seat sharing, the leader, who had been vouching to contest only from Hajipur, resigned from the Union Cabinet. Later, he announced his support to the BJP. However, he is yet to campaign for his estranged nephew Mr. Chirag.

From Sitamarhi, the sitting JD(U) candidate Sunil Kumar Pintu was dropped in favour of the party’s chairman of the State Assembly Council Devesh Chandra Thakur, who is considered close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The RJD has fielded Arjun Ray. In the 2019 election, Mr. Pintu defeated Mr. Ray by over 2.5 lakh votes. This time, sitting MP Mr. Pintu wanted to contest the election on a BJP ticket, but, under the NDA arrangement, the seat fell into JD(U)‘s kitty and the party chose Mr. Thakur.

In Madhubani, the BJP’s Ashok Yadav had defeated Vikashil Insaan Party (VIP) candidate Badri Kumar Purbey by over 4.5 lakh votes in 2019. But this time, the Mahagathbandhan has fielded Mohd. Ali Ashraf Fatmi (RJD) against Mr. Yadav, who is the son of former four-time MP from the seat and senior BJP leader Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav. Madhubani has also been a stronghold of the Communist Party of India with the party winning the seat in 1989, 1991 and 1996. Brahmins, Muslims, Yadavs and Extremely Backward Class comprise the majority of voters in the constituency where migration for livelihood due to floods is an important issue.

In Muzaffarpur, the contest is between the BJP’s Mr. Choudhary and the Mahagathbandhan’s Mr. Nishad of the Congress. In 2019, Mr. Nishad won on a BJP ticket defeating Mr. Choudhary, who had contested on a VIP ticket. This time, when the BJP dropped Mr. Nishad, he joined the Congress party.

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