Fear has often been the key to electoral victory in Mokama, the archetypal badlands of Bihar. The candidates and their kin call it adoration though.
“People love him and treat him as a son and brother, not an MLA. They call him Chhote Sarkar out of respect,” says Neelam Devi, campaigning for her husband Anant Singh, who is in jail for allegedly committing a murder.
Anant hopes to retain Mokama as an Independent. He had won the seat thrice as a JD(U) candidate since 2005 but had to leave the party as chief minister Nitish Kumar reportedly found him too hot to handle.
Huge posters displaying pictures of a moustachioed Anant greet those entering Mokama, a small town 90km east of Patna.
One of these posters reads: ‘Maa bahno par atyachar, nahin sahenge Chhote Sarkar’ (Chhote Sarkar will not tolerate atrocities against mothers and sisters).
Anant isn’t the only candidate with a criminal background contesting Mokama, a constituency that traditionally had ‘baahubali’ (musclemen) legislators. Surajbhan Singh, a contractor, won the seat in 2000, eight years before a Bihar court found him guilty of murder in 1992.
Surajbhan’s predecessor Dilip Singh — also a don like his brother Anant — had represented Mokama in 1990 and 1995.
This time, Surajbhan’s brother Kanhaiya Singh is the candidate of Lok Janshakti Party. Another strongman Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party has fielded is Lalan Singh, who claims to have been Surajbhan’s Man Friday.
“I was the original LJP candidate, but Surajbhan’s wife Veena Devi, an MP, threatened to split the party if her brother-in-law Kanhaiya was denied a ticket. My popularity can be gauged by the fact that I lost this seat narrowly twice as an LJP candidate,” Lalan says.
In 2010, Lalan’s wife Sonam Devi finished second as the LJP candidate.
The odd man out among 15 candidates is JD(U)’s Neeraj Kumar. He has been flaunting the strength of the sizeable Yadav voters who have no qualms in admitting their commitment to RJD chief
Locals say the contest this time could be tough since Anant – known for his penchant for horses and keeping wild animals as pets – is in jail and has no party support. “His wife is seeking a sympathy vote, but it may not be easy,” says Ramnaresh Yadav, a local resident.