Bihar polls: Amid unresolved issues, Digha to witness a triangular contest
In July, angry residents of STTI road in Digha, Bihar had mobbed local legislator Sanjeev Chaurasia over the absence of an all-weather road. The road, which connects to several upcoming colonies, usually remained waterlogged during the rainy season and the residents had to wade through ankle to knee-deep slushy water to reach their home.
Almost three months after the incident, Chaurasia, son of Sikkim Governor Ganga Prasad, is confident of retaining the seat, claiming that those were minor irritants that a public representative has to bear with. “People do have grievances but they let their anger come out in front of those leaders from who they expect a lot. They have expectations, as I usually stand with them in the need,” said Chaurasia, who is seeking his re-election from Digha assembly constituency on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket.
Chaurasia is pitted against Grant Alliance (GA) nominee and CPI (ML) leader Shashi Yadav, who has been spearheading a campaign for the rights of national health mission volunteers (Asha workers). The party has fielded Yadav with the hope of creating a divide among women electors and getting the advantage of cumulative vote bank of the RJD and the Congress in the area, sandwiched between Bankipur in east and Danapur in the west.
The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party’s (RLSP) candidate Sanjay Kumar Sinha alias Munna, who is a former ward councillor, may play a spoiler for the NDA owing his influence among his caste men, who constitute the third-largest segment of the electors after Kayastha and Yadavs.
“Apart from a shortage of pucca road and drains, there are many unresolved issues that might be unsettling for Chaurasia. The decades-old Digha land dispute, which led to arson and police-public confrontations, remained unresolved despite positive assurances given by the sitting MLA,” said Sumesh Singh, a native of Rajiv Nagar.
Awadhesh Kumar, a resident of Saristabad colony, feared that recurring waterlogging in various localities like Rajiv Nagar, Saristabad, Nirala Nagar, Magadh Colony, Digha, among others, might queer the pitch for the BJP candidate. “Western area of Patna is growing in an unplanned way as the civic agencies refused to play its designated role,” said Kumar.
Digha assembly seat, which came into existence in 2010 after delimitation of Danapur and Patna west assembly segments, was first won by Poonal Devi of the JD(U) which contested the polls under the NDA. In 2015, Chaurasia wrested the seat for the BJP against the JD(U)’s Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, who had then contested as the GA nominee, by a margin of nearly 25,000 votes.
Political observer and former Patna University teacher Nawal Kishore Chaudhary said that the constituency is up for a close contest. “A change in leadership in the area can’t be ruled out if Shashi Yadav manages to woo a sizable chunk of Dalit votes. As per caste calculus, Kayasthas have good presence. But Yadavs and Muslims together become strong combine. The BJP may enjoy the support of upper castes. However, if the RSLP candidate manages to make a serious dent in Kurmi’s vote and the ML candidate wins a sizable number of Dalit votes, there is possibility of change in Digha,” Chaudhary added.
Digha at a glance
Total electors: 4.50 lakh
Male voters: 2.35 lakh
Female voters: 2.14 lakh
Percentage of votes in 2015 polls: 42.1%
Main contenders in fray: Sanjeev Chaurasia- BJP (sitting), Shashi Yadav - CPI(ML), Sanjay Kumar Sinha (RLSP)