RJD smells blood as BJP bets on new face in Buxar bastion - Hindustan Times
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RJD smells blood as BJP bets on new face in Buxar bastion

By, Patna
May 28, 2024 09:24 PM IST

BJP has dropped its sitting MP, union minister Ashwini Choubey, in favour of ex-MLA Mithlesh Tiwari, who faces off RJD’s Sudhakar Singh.

Buxar is barely 125 kilometres from Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And that is what BJP candidate Mithilesh Tiwari, who is contesting for the first time, is banking on to sail through in what is turning out to be a three-cornered contest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Buxar on May 25. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Buxar on May 25. (PTI)

The sitting MP, Union minister Ashwini Choubey, who also won the Buxar Lok Sabha seat in 2014, was passed over by the BJP this time in favour of Tiwari, a former MLA from Baikunthpur in Gopalganj district.

A comparison with Varanasi touches a raw nerve among the Buxar voters. “Even for medical treatment, people have to go to Varanasi. Our representatives didn’t give Buxar what it deserved,” retorts Ramanand Mishra, a retired teacher.

Suman Kumar, who studies in Varanasi, calls Buxar “a developmental desert”. “It could have been a satellite town of Varanasi, but the fate of the ‘Namami Gange’ project says it all,” he said, pointing to an open British-era drain flowing straight into the Ganga at Nath Baba ghat just opposite the SDO’s residence.

Buxar has traditionally been a stronghold of the BJP, which has lost the seat just once since 1996. Bihar RJD chief Jagdanand Singh had won in 2009, though he lost both in 2014 and 2019 to Choubey.

This time, Jagdanand Singh’s son and former Bihar agriculture minister Sudhakar Singh is contesting on RJD ticket as the INDIA bloc nominee. He is a first-time MLA from Ramgarh in Buxar and quite active and vocal on agriculture and local issues. It was, in fact, his strong observations on the efficacy of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s agriculture road maps that led to his exit from the Grand Alliance (GA) government, but that only made him more vocal.

“Buxar has backed BJP for so long, but what has BJP given to Buxar? Ramgarh can vouch for me in my first term as MLA, and I will work with greater force for Buxar,” says Sudhakar, who has been campaigning across the constituency by road, air and even water. A few days ago, he also took out a boat rally.

However, both BJP and RJD are wary due to the complexities on ground. Assam-cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Anand Mishra, who is a Buxar native and took voluntary retirement to fight elections, has made the contest three-cornered. He was eying BJP ticket, but chose to contest independently after being denied ticket.

For BJP candidate Tiwari, except the charisma of the Prime Minister, not much seems to be going right on the ground. Choubey has been conspicuous by his absence from the constituency all through. The PM was, however, at Buxar on May 25, while many other BJP leaders have campaigned.

“This election is not just about electing an MP, but for electing PM. It is an election to form a strong government,” Modi had said during his rally in Buxar.

RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha, who was also in Buxar to campaign for Sudhakar, said “BJP’s unfounded optimism would come hollow in Bihar and Buxar will show how the bastion crumbles”.

The Opposition is also trying to corner Tiwari, native of Gopalganj, by branding him “outsider”. What is more, Anand Mishra’s candidature has upset the caste equation for him. Mishra is drawing good response from the dominant Brahmin community.

Aware of the challenge, BJP has deployed its heavy artillery here. Defence minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, both Rajputs, have already addressed rallies here, which could dent the Rajput vote bank of Sudhakar Singh, who also comes from the same community. Also, Rajputs have traditionally supported RJD.

All six Assembly segments in Buxar parliamentary constituency are with the parties of the opposition bloc — three with RJD (Brahmapur, Ramgarh and Dinara), two with Congress (Rajpur and Buxar) and one with CPI-ML (Dumraon). That gives the opposition a realistic chance. “If Sudhakar cannot win from here this time, when will he win?” asked Ramanand Singh, a farmer in Buxar.

Sudhakar Singh has been especially vocal on agriculture issues. Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait also visited Buxar a number of times at his call and addressed farmers. But he, too, faces a rebel. Former RJD MLA Dadan Pehelwan has also jumped in the fray as an Independent, though locals say he would only eat into Sudhakar’s votes to some extent and not make much of an impact.

Bahujan Samajwadi Party’s Anil Kumar is another candidate, who has the potential to upset the calculations for others. In fact, there are over two dozen candidates in the fray in Buxar and they could cut both ways to make or mar the prospects of the main players.

“The fight will ultimately boil down to BJP vs RJD. Had Anand Mishra been contesting on BJP ticket, it would have been easier. BJP has a strong base here, but Sudhakar is seen as a hardworking, well-meaning person. Let’s see who crosses the line. Voting preferences can change overnight here,” said Surendra Kumar of Dinara.

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