Of Bihar’s 40 seats, interesting to watch will be the home constituencies of the big four of Bihar politics — JD(U) leader and CM Nitish Kumar’s Nalanda, RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s Saran (previously Chapra), JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav’s Madhepura and LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan’s Hajipur.
These constituencies — located in four different regions of the state — capture the overall voting trends in the previous elections. Will they go against the general mood that favours the BJP and its PM nominee Narendra Modi this time? That’s the big question.
While Nalanda in central Bihar has a heavy concentration of Kumar’s Kurmi caste, Saran in north Bihar is dominated by the Yadavs and Rajputs. While scheduled castes and Bhumihars dominate Hajipur in north Bihar, the Yadavs, Brahmins and upper castes call the shots in Madhepura in east Bihar.
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Nalanda had traditionally been a Congress bastion from the first general elections in 1952 till 1971. In 1977, it sent a Janata Party candidate and, thereafter, the CPI won the seat thrice in 1980, 1984 and 1991.
The socialists grabbed it in 1996 when George Fernandes won as Samata Party candidate and retained the seat in 1998 and 1999. Kumar won it in 2004. Since then, it is with the JD (U).
With massive development work, including an international university, the Rajgir tourist hub, defence and railway establishments and medical and engineering colleges, the Kurmi stronghold will be closely watched.
Saran is the turf of Lalu Prasad. In 1957, Praja Socialist Party had won the seat, but the Congress won it from 1962 to 1971. During the Janata Party wave in 1977, Prasad bagged it and since then, it has been his turf. As an exception, BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy won the seat in 1996.
Prasad, as railway minister, set up a wheel factory at Bela and locomotive works at Marhoura. Since he has been debarred from contesting elections because of his conviction in a fodder scam case, he is likely to field his wife Rabri Devi this time. Since the upper castes are inclined towards the BJP, it will be an interesting contest to watch.
Hajipur was a Congress seat till LJP chief Paswan won it with a record margin in the mid-1970s. Since then, it elected Paswan seven times before he lost to former Bihar chief minister Ram Sundar Das in 2009.
Paswan will contest from this constituency again as part of the Congress-RJD-LJP combine. Though the Bhumihars are dominant in this area, they normally side with Paswan, whose fate will be determined by the Yadavs in a fight involving the JD(U) and the BJP.
Paswan is credited with changing Hajipur’s rural profile, setting up industries, educational institutions and, above all, the headquarters of the East Central Railway.
About the Madhepura seat, they say, “Rome Pope ka, Madhepura Gope (Yadavs) ka”. The Yadavs and the most backward segments have always determined the voting in this constituency.
Before delimitation, Madhepura was a Yadav-dominated constituency, but now it has a reasonable number of upper castes, particularly Brahmins. It has been represented by Sharad Yadav four times, but RJD chief Lalu Prasad defeated him twice when they separated.
The JD(U) is banking on its development initiatives, including the construction of a four-lane bridge over the Kosi and the proposed locomotive factory. But the BJP and the RJD may put a formidable candidate to challenge the JD(U) president.