Bihar polls enter NDA’s 2019 clean-sweep territory

Valmikinagar, East Champaran, West Champaran, Sheohar, Vaishali, Siwan, Maharajganj and Gopalganj vote on May 25 in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha election

Updated - May 21, 2024 10:56 pm IST

Published - May 21, 2024 10:01 pm IST - PATNA

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Kumar Sinha  and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Maharajganj, Janardan Singh Sigriwal during the public meeting ahead of the sixth phase of Lok Sabha Polls, in Maharajganj on May 21, 2024

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Kumar Sinha and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Maharajganj, Janardan Singh Sigriwal during the public meeting ahead of the sixth phase of Lok Sabha Polls, in Maharajganj on May 21, 2024 | Photo Credit: ANI

The popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to brighten the prospects of NDA candidates who are contesting the Lok Sabha election from eight seats in Bihar that go to the polls in the sixth phase on May 25. “Candidate toh majburi hai, Modi zaruri hai [the candidate is a compulsion, but Modi is a necessity]” is a common sentiment voters share across Valmikinagar, East Champaran, West Champaran, Sheohar, Vaishali, Siwan, Maharajganj and Gopalganj constituencies where 85 candidates are in the fray.

In 2019, the NDA had won all the eight seats. This year, the BJP has fielded candidates in four constituencies, the Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] in three and the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) [LJP] from one seat. The Mahagathbandhan’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is contesting from four seats, while the Congress and Vikashil Insaan Party (VIP) have fielded candidates in two constituencies each.

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In Sheohar, the JD(U)‘s Lovely Anand, the wife of strongman-turned-politician Anand Mohan Singh, is contesting against Ritu Jaiswal of the RJD. Sitting MP Rama Devi of the BJP could not contest the election as the constituency fell in the JD(U)‘s kitty after seat-sharing. Most of the voters in Sheohar are from the backward Vaishya caste and from the upper caste Rajput community. Ms. Anand, a Rajput, is confident of winning the seat and is banking on the popularity of Mr. Modi, who is from the Vaishya community. Ms. Jaiswal, a Vaishya, is campaigning hard to wrest the seat from the NDA. However, both are battling the ‘outsider’ tag as Ms. Jaiswal comes from Sitamarhi district and Ms. Anand is from Saharsha district.

Siwan will witness a three-cornered contest as Hena Shahab, an Independent candidate and wife of late strongman and RJD leader Mohd. Shahabuddin, is expected to give a fight to Vijaylakshmi Devi (JD-U) and Awadh Bihari Chaudhary (RJD). Although Ms. Shahab has lost elections from Siwan seat three times, in all these polls from 2009 to 2019, she finished second.

Vaishali is the only seat in the sixth phase where NDA ally LJP (Ram Vilas) has fielded its candidate, sitting MP Veena Devi. Ms. Devi is contesting against Vijay Kumar Shukla of the RJD, a strongman from north Bihar who was accused and imprisoned for the murder of former Bihar Minister Brij Bihari Prasad, late husband of Rama Devi, the BJP MP from Sheohar constituency.

In Maharajganj, the NDA has fielded sitting MP Janaradan Prasad Sigriwal (BJP) against Aakash Kumar Singh of the Congress. Mr. Singh is the son of Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president Akhilesh Prasad Singh and comes from the upper caste Bhumihar community. Mr. Sigriwal is a Rajput. On Tuesday, Mr. Modi addressed a public meeting in the constituency and sought votes for Mr. Sigriwal who in 2019 had defeated RJD candidate Randhir Singh. In Maharajganj, the Rajput-Bhumihar votes and those of the Yadav community are known to influence the poll outcome.

From Gopalganj, an SC seat, the JD(U)‘s Alok Suman is up against the VIP’s Chanchal Paswan. As per the seat-sharing arrangement, VIP is contesting from Gopalganj, Jhanjharpur and East Champaran. Party leader Mukesh Sahni has campaigned alongside RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav to garner a chunk of the votes of the Sahni-Mallahs (boatmen/fishermen) communities which is around 6% of the total 36% EBC votes.

The Valmikinagar constituency has been in the news ever since former United Liberation Front of Assam commander and two-time MP from Kokrajhar (Assam) Naba Kumar Sarania threw his hat in the ring after his nomination papers were rejected in Kokrajhar. The constituency shares its border with Nepal and has a sizeable tribal (Tharus) population along with Dalits, EBCs, OBCs and Brahmins. In 2019, the JD(U)‘s Baidyanath Mahto won the election. Following his death, his son Sunil Kumar Kushwaha won the by-poll in 2020 and this time he is contesting against the RJD’s Deepak Yadav.

In East Champaran, the BJP has reposed faith in its three-time MP Radha Mohan Singh against the VIP’s Rajesh Kushwaha. Mr. Modi addressed a public meeting on Tuesday and sought support for Mr. Singh. Locals said the BJP candidate is expected to retain his seat.

In neighboring West Champaran, BJP candidate and former State party president Sanjay Jaiswal, who has been an MP since 2009, will take on Congress candidate Madan Mohan Tiwari. In 2019, Mr. Jaiswal won the election by nearly 3 lakh votes. The seat has a big chunk of EBC and OBC voters besides a sizeable number of upper caste voters. Voters told The Hindu that they would vote for Mr. Jaiswal to give Mr. Modi a third term as the Prime Minister.

Of the 85 candidates in the fray, 35 are millionaires. While Valmikinagar’s RJD candidate Mr. Deepak is the richest with declared assets of ₹74 crore, the LJP (Ram Vilas)‘s candidate from Vaishali, Veena Devi, has assets of over ₹46 crore.

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