The BJP may face an uphill task of retaining its seat in this holy city with the constituency truncated after delimitation and rival candidates threatening to cut into the party's core vote base even as the Assembly seat here has been the saffron forte for last two decades.
As the election debate veers around various caste and community permutations and combinations and the stacks appear to be against sitting BJP candidate Prem Kumar, a veteran who has won the seat for four successive terms and who is the Minister for Road Construction in the state government.
Polls in the city will be held on November 9 in the fifth phase of Assembly elections in Bihar. Manpur, an area with strong BJP support base has been detached from the town constituency and merged in Wajirganj Aassembly seat, while Delhi Bhaluahi area, where the party used to get majority of votes minus the dominant Yadav caste votes, was also attached to another seat Belaganj. Kumar also faces threat of erosion in his votes from Congress and LJP-RJD alliance candidates Mohan Srivastava and Rajkumar Prasad alias Raju Barnwal hailing from Kayastha and Vaishyas communities, the two core caste bases of BJP here.
"He is likely to get a section of Barnwal votes along with those from Mahuri community besides the traditional votes of RJD and LJP," says a young businessman Ajay Barnwal in Murarpur locality of the town. On the other hand Srivastava's candidature has not gone down well with local Congress leadership as he was a close associate of the RJD leader Surendra Prasad Yadav and is being seen by Congress as an outsider imposed on the party.
Former Rajya Sabha MP Jalaluddin Ansari, fielded by CPI has a clean image and is the lone formidable Muslim candidate fielded by any political party in the constituency, which has around 25 per cent Muslim population. NCP, which fielded Alauddin Ansari has no political base here. "Ansari has from his limited MP fund got concrete roads in mohallas and tried to improve drainage system in various localities.
There is no corruption charge against him and he is considered a thorough gentleman," says Tarique Hassan of Muslim dominated Shibly Colony.
Rakesh Kumar Sinha, a BSc student, who has also been a MLA here for last 20 years, says development is the centre stage of Bihar polls this time and there are questions on why the city could not develop as much as it should have.