Monday, April 14, 2014

Patna Sahib poised for a close finish

Source: HT
PATNA: Very few constituencies in Bihar, probably none, will match the star attraction of Patna Sahib in this parliamentary election which is a contest between national and local, 'rashtra bachega to rajya bachega (country above state), issues with Shatrughan Sinha claiming to be the 'Shaan' of Bihar in the fray with Bhojpuri film star Kunal Singh of Congress's 'Kal Hamara Hai' film fame, Padma Shri Dr Gopal Prasad Sinha of JD(U) having no more 'Dostana' for the saffron party and Parveen Amanullah of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a minister in Nitish government till recently and now promising 'Kranti' for basic amenities.

Unlike 2009, when RJD and Congress garnered a total 2,11,087 votes while contesting separately, 2014 is a tough battle for the Bihari Babu who had ridden the 'sushasan' wave of BJP and JD (U) alliance to tromp on 'Movers and Shakers' Shekhar Suman and romped home comfortably in 2009. Though the 'Shotgun' fires "no contest, no competition, no fight and better poll result in his favour" owing to substantial support for BJP among all castes, the JD(U) candidate is trying hard to set him back on his heels and turning every leaf to eat into the caste votes of his BJP opponent who is struggling to 'khamosh' (silence) his critics for being absent from the constituency during his five-year term.

Dr Gopal (71) is not only banking on his integrity and reputation as a doctor, but also harping on over 70,000 Kurmi goodwill votes of CM Nitish Kumar plus over 60,000 Brahmins due to his wife Prof Indira Jha. "I am fighting for the self respect of Bihar and contesting at the cost of roaring practice as a doctor," says Dr Gopal. But there are people like Ajay Kumar of Nehru Nagar who says, "In Bihar, I am with Nitish Kumar. But JD(U) has no role in government formation at Centre and I will vote for BJP to get rid of UPA."

Adding spice to the contest is AAP's Parveen (56), an RTI activist. She is the only AAP candidate in Bihar who will count substantially in the fray and is out to queer the pitch for both the BJP and Congress candidates with over 2 lakh Muslim electors and thousands of AAP online members in the constituency. "No other party has any way out of the morass the country is in. I am confident the people will vote above caste lines for the new beginning made by AAP," says the daughter of former diplomat turned Janata Party MP Syed Shahabuddin and wife of 1979 batch IAS officer Afzal Amanullah.

Kunal Singh (58) uses 'Yadav' title in bracket on his posters and banners and boasts of the political legacy of his father and former minister Budhadev Singh, who was an MLA several times since 1962 and won as Congress candidate in 1977 from Bakhtiarpur under this parliamentary constituency now. The mirror image of Bollywood star Jitendra, Kunal is banking on over 3 lakh Yadav and 2 lakh Muslim votes.

"Onion sells at Rs100/kg before polls and comes down to Rs8/kg after the results. BJP manipulates the market through false propaganda. People are angry with the sitting MP and they will vote for me as we, with RJD, are fighting against communal forces," said Kunal.

Although Yadavs are not very happy with Congress for the treatment meted out to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, "they will vote en bloc for Kunal, particularly in Patna Sahib, Fatuha and Bakhtiarpur assembly segments. Majority of Kayasthas are likely to vote for Shatrughan as he will have a chance of becoming a minister if he wins and BJP forms government. After filing nomination papers, Parveen had good support among Muslims in Patna City area, but they may not back her now after Syed Bukhari's announcement in Congress's favour. The Kayasthas take decision on this line. But what tilts the scale is the votes of banias and 'panch pawanias (kumhar, kahar, barber etc)," said Chandramani Singh of Deedarganj, a long time political activist with friends in all parties.

Given the RJD alliance with Congress and the tactical voting to get the BJP candidate defeated, Muslims are likely to decide on the previous evening of election. "We will sit together in a village meeting before election and decide who to vote for. But it will certainly not for the BJP," said Mumtaz Alam of Hamidpur Kurji which has around 800 votes. "I am an AAP supporter but owners and workers at the 100 odd shops collectively decide a day before polling," said Md Khalid of Kabaddi Market on Exhibition Road after Parveen visited them recently.

An important factor to decide the poll outcome will be the 5.07% net increase (2,22,023) of first-time voters in Patna district in which the Patna Sahib seat shares almost half.
Source: TOI

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