Former MP vs LS debutant in Sheohar battle | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Former MP vs LS debutant in Sheohar battle

By, Sheohar
May 22, 2024 08:38 AM IST

For the ruling alliance, fielding a non-Vaishya candidate has antagonised the predominant Vaishya community in a seat that has 25% voters from the community.

Situated along the India-Nepal border in Bihar, the Sheohar Lok Sabha constituency is all set to witness a direct contest between two women candidates — each with distinct social and political background — representing two regional powerhouses in the state.

Former MP vs LS debutant in Sheohar battle
Former MP vs LS debutant in Sheohar battle

While the Janata Dal (United), an ally in the ruling NDA, has fielded Lovely Anand, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a partner in the opposition INDIA bloc, has given a ticket to Ritu Jaiswal.

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Distinct name to fame

Lovely Anand is the wife of mafioso-turned-political Anand Mohan Singh, who was incarcerated for 16 years after being convicted for the 1994 murder of G Krishnaiah, then district magistrate of Gopalganj. Singh, who was serving life sentence in the case, walked of the prison in April last year after the Bihar government amended the jail manual.

A two-term Bihar legislator, Lovely Anand had represented the Vaishali Lok Sabha seat from 1994 to 1996. She comes from the Rajput community, a so-called upper caste.

On the other hand, Ritu Jaiswal started her political journey by becoming the mukhiya (village head) of Singwania gram panchayat in Sitamarhi in 2016. She was honoured with the “champions of change” award by then Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu in 2018. She also contested, albeit unsuccessfully, the assembly election from Parihar in Sitamarhi in 2020 on an RJD ticket. Her husband, Arun Kumar, took a voluntary retirement from IRS, became a mukhiya himself and also tutors UPSC aspirants in Patna. She comes from the Vaishya community, a dominant caste grouping in the constituency.

Outsider vs local

Ahead of the May 25 polling in the constituency, the RJD has levelled an “outsider” charge against Lovely Anand — a claim her camp denies. In her counter, she points at her son Chetan Anand, who is a local legislator, and strongman husband, who is a former MP from the seat. “In such a situation how can I be called an outsider,” she said.

Chetan Anand, who was elected on a RJD ticket, had bailed out the Nitish Kumar government during the trust vote in February this year, by crossing over to the ruling camp. The trust vote was necessitated after Kumar’s crossing over to the NDA camp from the Mahagathbandhan.

Jaiswal, who is a native of Singwani in Sheohar constituency, is making the contest a battle of contrast by projecting it a fight between “wife of the assassin of an IAS and a hard-working wife of an IRS officer who left luxury in Delhi to serve the people”.

“Will chief minister Nitish Kumar reply what was the compulsion of giving tickets to such people? Be it any party, people should think about caste and criminal background,” she told HT.

Caste, a factor

For the ruling alliance, fielding a non-Vaishya candidate has antagonised the predominant Vaishya community in a seat that has 25% voters from the community. Rama Devi, the incumbent BJP lawmaker who won the previous three polls in the seat but had to opt out of the race after the seat went to the JD(U), comes from the Vaishya community —traditionally BJP voters.

Besides Vaishya, EBCs constitute 30% of voters, Dalits 20%, Muslims 18% and so-called upper castes 17%.

“It is true that our community has been denied ticket but we also should take into consideration the development work by the government. Post-2005, it was impossible to travel to Muzaffarpur, a distance of 45 km in even five hours, but today one can make two-three trips a day,” Manu Kumar, a businessman who travels to Muzaffarpur every alternate day for wholesale marketing, said.

People in rural constituencies are tight-lipped on the inaccessibility of Lovely and Chetan Anand, but some BJP functionaries said that complaints of the latter’s inaccessibility was creating a negative momentum and hampering his mother’s candidature.

“With BJP out of the race in Sheohar, this has confused voters, particularly rural women who don’t see any campaign from saffron party,” Dharmesh Kumar, who runs a sweets shop near Bargania railway station, said.

To overcome the problem and ward off the confusion, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — the ideological fountainhead of the BJP — has stepped in.

“We have so far held over 4,000 meetings in panchayats. A team has been formed for every panchayat and by [May] 24, we plan to hold 10,000 such meetings. People are being told not to look at candidate, but the PM [Narendra Modi]. Ram mandir, Article 370, Covid vaccinations, benefits of welfare schemes are being taken to them. One of the aims is to ward off the negative image of candidate,” an RSS functionary said, requesting anonymity.

Closed sugar mill

Twenty km from the district headquarters of Sitamarhi, the echoes of the closure of Rega sugar mill since 2020 reverberates. The mill, which used to produce 5,000 bags of sugar a day, today stands as one of the examples of decline of industries in Bihar.

“It had workforce of 800 at the time of closure. Nearly 200 families depended on it and people of the area were attached to it directly or indirectly,” Niraj Jha, chief security officer who visits the closed mill every day, said.

“Our hopes are high from the Centre,” Nand Kishore Shah, a local resident, said. “Many people have migrated out to earn bread and butter.”

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