Seemanchal puts Narendra Modi wave to test

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, Katihar/Purnea/Araria/Bhagalpur
  • Updated: Apr 21, 2014 03:09 IST

The build-up to Modi's arrival in Katihar on Saturday was marked by aggressive speeches by local BJP leaders. When he got there, Modi, too, pulled off his gloves, and coined the RSVP (Rahul, Sonia, Vadra, and Priyanka) model, to describe the UPA. "It is a model where one crore becomes Rs 300 crores in 4 years," he had said at a rally.

This is BJP's 'final push' in a challenging contest in Bihar's northeastern belt, where seven seats go to polls on April 24. For the NDA to achieve its goal of bagging 25 of 40 seats in the state, this belt is crucial for the BJP.

But it's a tough task. For instance, consider the four seats in the Seemanchal region that comprises of Purnia, Araria, Katihar and Kishanganj districts. In Katihar, BJP three-term MP Nikhil Choudhary, faces a strong challenge from NCP's Tariq Anwar, who is backed by the Congress and Lalu Prasad's RJD. Anwar, a four-term MP, lost the last three elections, but this time, the disenchantment with sitting MP Choudhary and a consolidation of Muslim votes could see him through, the Anwar camp claims.

In Purnea, two-term BJP MP Uday Singh has an edge, but is criticised for neither being accessible nor having created jobs despite his business background. He faces a tough challenge from JD(U)'s Santosh Khushwaha.

In Araria, the incumbent, Pradeep Singh is unpopular, according to BJP leaders themselves. Singh told HT he will win if Muslim votes are split between RJD's Mohammed Taslimuddin and the JD(U).

In Kishanganj, the Congress candidates' victory is almost certain.

In neighbouring Bhagalpur, Shahanawaz Hussain has won with the backing of the BJP's support base among the upper and middle caste voters, along with a slice of a Muslim votes. But this time, there is a perception that Muslims may not vote for him, given their apprehensions regarding Modi.

Modi's frequent rounds of this region aim to dilute these factors and reinforce the national 'wave' in his favour.

The election outcome in this belt will be a real testimony to whether the Modi factor has worked, or if the local has overwhelmed the national, and whether Muslims votes have voted consolidated or fragmented.

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