With the 243-member Bihar assembly election just two weeks away, the political drama in the state is in full swing. In what is being seen as one of the biggest elections globally during the Covid-19 pandemic, the voting for Bihar elections will be held in three phases on October 28 (71 seats), November 3 (94 seats) and November 7 (78 seats), followed by counting of votes on November 10.
Political battle in 4 seats of Jamui district in Bihar
Among the 71 Assembly seats spread across 14 districts going into polls in the first phase, the Jamui district has 4 seats, namely Jamui, Sikandra, Jhajha and Chakai. During the 2015 Assembly elections, BJP won only one of these seats- Jhajha. Two seats (Jamui and Chakai) was bagged by the then Mahagathbandhan partner RJD and one seat (Sikandra) went to the Congress.
However, this time the political scenerio in the Jamui Lok Sabha constituency seems to be different and there are three main reasons for this. The first and primary reason being that Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) JDU, which contested the 2015 election in alliance with the RJD and Congress, is with the NDA alliance this time.
Secondly, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshaki Party (LJP), which was with the BJP in the last election, is contesting the Bihar polls out of the fold of the NDA. It is pertinent to note here that Jamui district is largely influenced by the Lok Janshaki Party. Riding the Narendra Modi wave, young Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan had made a successful debut five years back from the Jamui district, defeating the Mahagathbandhan candidate by a margin of around 2.41 lakh votes.
Whether LJP wins more seats or loses this time, it might play a spoilsport for Nitish Kumar’s government. Thirdly, the sons of the former state minister Narendra Singh- Ajay Pratap Singh and Sumit Kumar Singh are also popular in Jamui district.
Jamui assembly seat:
Keeping in mind how crucial this district is in the Bihar electoral arena, BJP has this year fielded shooter Shreyasi Singh from the Jamui seat. By feilding the daughter of former Union minister late Digvijay Singh, BJP has converted Jamui into the most popular seat of this phase. Though this election will be Singh’s debut in politics, Shreyasi who recently joined BJP, has a strong political background and is quite popular amongst the young voters.
During the 2015 Assembly elections, except Chakai, there was a direct fight seen between the NDA and the Grand Alliance candidate in the remaining three seats of Jamui. But this time, things are different. This elections, NDA and the RJD candidates will be facing resistance from the family of former minister Narendra Singh, whose son Ajay Pratap Singh was an MLA from 2010 to 2015. BJP rebel Ajay Pratap is likely to contest as the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) nominee. This third party which has been added in the political fray in Jamui this time is being considered to be the deciding factor.
Meanwhile, RJD has fielded MLA Vijay Prakash. Vijay has fought from this seat many times. He first won from Jamui in February 2005. After that, he lost twice by big margins. Again in 2015, he got the benefits of being associated with JDU and won this seat with a margin of around eight thousand votes. He was also a minister in the Grand Alliance government. His wife Vinita Prakash is the chairman of Jamui Zilla Parishad, while elder brother Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav has been a Member of Parliament from the Banka seat and a former minister at the Center.
Though RJD’s MLA Vijay Prakash and RLSP candidate Ajay Pratap are banking on their past victories and their long-serving political careers, BJP’s Shreyasi Singh is being touted as the most popular candidate from the seat. In fact, after BJP has announced the name of the Commonwealth Games gold medallist’s name, most political discussion in context to the Bihar elections have just been revolving around the ace shooter. Moreover, no LJP candidate is contesting from Jamui, a fact that is bound to help Shreyasi. She had admitted it too while speaking to OpIndia.
Jhajha in Jamui, Bihar
On the contrary, the presence of LJP candidate in Jhajha’s seat is increasing the problem of the NDA alliance. During the 2015 Assembly elections, the Jhajha seat was bagged by BJP’s Ravindra Yadav after securing 65,537 votes. JD(U)’s Damodar Rawat was second with 43,451 votes. This time this seat has gone into JD(U)’s account and Damodar Rawat is NDA candidate. After being expelled from BJP, the sitting MLA from Jhajha-Ravindra Yadav will now enter the fray representing Chirag Paswan-led LJP’s ‘Bungalow’ symbol. Jhajha is one of the seats where LJP is believed have a strong hold.
However, during our visit in the remote rural areas of the region, about two weeks before the polling, we found that a section of voters are confused about Ravindra Yadav’s party and election symbol. Though Rajendra Prasad has been fielded by RJD, the key factor between its victory and defeat is Ravindra Yadav.
Chakai seat in Jamui, Bihar
Meanwhile, the deciding factor in Chakai’s seat this time is an independent candidate. His name is Sumit Singh. He is also the son of Narendra Singh. Last time, as an independent, he was second with nearly 35,000 votes. Savitri Devi of RJD won by bagging around 47,000 votes. This time too, the RJD has given her a chance. To give her a tough fight, JD(U) has fielded Sanjay Prasad from the Chakai seat which has gone into the kitty of ruling JD(U) as a result of the seat sharing between the two NDA allies. Last year, LJP’s Vijay Kumar Singh was third aftet securing 28,535 votes. This time LJP has fielded Sanjay Mandal. Though LJP has a significant influence on the Chakai seat too, but this election season, the most discussed name in Chakai is that of Sumit Singh.
Speaking to OpIndia, locals said that despite losing the election, Sumit Singh remained continuously active in the area for the last 5 years. Apart from his father’s name, this seems to be going in his favour. Although it is difficult to say who will win in the triangular contest, Chakai will definitely be one of the seats in Bihar where the competition is going to be really tough.
Sikandra seat in Jamui
Congress’ Sudheer Kumar alias Bunty Chaudhary still appears to be a strong candidate in Sikandra. Last elections, he had received around 59,000 votes. LJP’s Subhash Paswan was at the second spot with around 51,000 votes. Pertinently, in the past five years, Bunty Chaudhary has been in discussion for various other reasons apart from work. Meanwhile, another BJP turncoat Ravi Shankar Paswan has been fielded by LJP from the Sikandra seat. Jitan Ram Manjhi’s ‘Hum’, which bagged the seat during seat sharing between NDA allies, has fielded Praful Manjhi from Sikandra.
Subhash Paswan, who had represented LJP in the last election has turned rebel this time. It is pertinent to note that initially, there was talk that LJP chief Chirag Paswan, who has decided to go solo contesting 143 of the 243 seats, would himself contest the assembly elections from this reserved seat. Here LJP is considered to have a strong hold and moreover, after the death of Ram Vilas Paswan, the sympathy wave might impact the outcome of the elections.
Interestingly, the voters on the ground are complaining about not getting the benefit of government schemes and corruption. They are also seen cribbing about the impact of the lockdown. But in the end, every discussion is ending at the candidate’s name.
As local journalist Murali Dixit says, “The equation on paper and the ground reality is different.” The biggest reason for this may be JDU’s separation from the Mahagatbandhan this time and LJP’s separation from the NDA alliance. With the JDU joining NDA alliance, it is certain that it will lose the votes that RJD and Congress had contributed to it last year. Similarly, the seats where LJP is fighting are also going to have an impact. Also, the claims of Sumit Singh and Ajay Pratap cannot be easily dismissed”, opined Dixit.
Amidst all the political drama, the one thing which is interesting in Jamui is that in this backward district, situated adjacent to Jharkhand, the one name which is being discussed in every nook and cranny, by almost every individual, is that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Surprisingly, the ignorant voters who do not even know that RJD and JD(U) are no longer together, recognise Narendra Modi and the ‘lotus’, the election symbol of BJP.