Tug of war between Dalit leaders, rebels at play

CHAKAI/BHAGALPUR : The battle for supremacy between two BJP allies as well as rumblings in the grand alliance are at play in many seats as 49 constituencies of the Bihar Assembly go to polls in the first phase of elections tomorrow.

HAM (secular) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi’s quest to replace LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan as the most bankable Dalit leader in the state is playing out in Chakai where sitting MLA Sumit Singh, whose father Narendra Singh is a top HAM leader, is fighting as an independent against official NDA candidate Vijay Singh of LJP.

It was a safe seat for us but now anything can happen, Divesh Singh, a BJP leader, said while campaigning for the LJP candidate.

In a tactical move, RJD has fielded the widow of a BJP leader, a former MLA, from Chakai.

Manjhi factor is also playing out for Bihar LJP chief Pashupati Paras, who is fighting a keen battle to reclaim his bastion of Alauli seat.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s shrewd move to hive off a mahadalit category from the Schedules Castes cost Paswan’s brother his seat in 2010 and he is depending on Manjhi s appeal among these extreme poor castes to win back their votes.

To underline his growing stature, Manjhi had recently boasted that Paswan requested him to address a public meeting in Alauli by phone as he could not attend it in person.

Such is the sniping among the leaders of two outfits drawing their core support from the 15 per cent Dalit vote bank that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ss rally in Makhdumpur, from where Manjhi is contesting, was cancelled, many wondered if the HAM chief was struggling in his own backyard and needed Modi’s prop.

HAM soon asserted that Manjhi does not want any big leader from any other party to campaign for him.

Far away in Bhagalpur, the buzz in political circles is that the rivalry between former MP Shahnawaz Hussain and Buxar MP Ashwini Choubey has to do something with the decision of BJP leader Vijay Shah to jump into fray as an independent against party nominee Arjit Shashwat, Choubey’s son.

Such is the nervousness in BJP camp that party chief Amit Shah besides top state leaders like Sushil Modi have held talks with leaders of vaishya community, to which Shah belongs, to ensure that they back Shashwat in the urban constituency, considered a party bastion before Congress won from here in a by-poll in 2014.

Political watchers believe that NDA is not as strong in the eastern Bihar, which goes to polls tomorrow, besides Seemanchal as in other regions.

BJP has traditionally not fielded candidates from a majority of 49 seats and even this time its allies LJP, RLSP and HAM are contesting on 22 of them.

Though leaders of RJD-JD(U)-Congress grand alliance claim that they have been better than their NDA rivals in candidate selection, the Pappu card threatens to mar their prospects at many places.

Expelled RJD leader Pappu Yadav has tactically put up Muslim and Yadav candidates, many of whom from RJD and JD(U) who were angry over denial of tickets to them, at several places.

In Nathnagar, former MLA from RJD Abu Kaisar has been fielded by Pappu Yadav, making the battle harder for sitting JD(U) MLA Ajay Mandal.

In a loose alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party and Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Pappu Yadav is touring the region extensively with the grand alliance leaders accusing him of working to harm their chances at BJP’s behest.

He is clearly doing it do harm us.

How much he will succeed is not sure, Vinay Sharma, a local Congress leader, said. (PTI)