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BARH

The Barh constituency in Bihar, known for the roots of the high-profile leader Nitish Kumar, has both been a source of strength and trouble for him over the years.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2004 17:47 IST

The Barh constituency in Bihar, known for the roots of the high-profile leader Nitish Kumar, has both been a source of strength and trouble for him over the years. Nitish will contest from Barh as well as Nalanda this time.

The present Railway Minister had just scraped through in 1999, getting just 1,335 votes more than his nearest rival RJD's Vijay Krishna to enter 13th Lok Sabha in 11-cornered contest.

But the engineer-turned-politician who is Kurmi by caste, seldom wins an election here comfortably, thanks to the caste equation which is loaded heavily against him. With the Kurmis and Yadavs forming the bulk of the population, followed by the Harijans, Rajputs, Bhumihars, Koeris, Other Backward Castes and a sprinkling of Muslims, he has always had to do a lot of tightrope walking in his constituency.

He was almost defeated by the Rajput candidate last time although the contest was not that tough in 1998 when Rajputs were in two minds. Nitish defeated Vijoy Krishna by 15190 votes in 1998. By and large the Kurmis have strongly favoured Nitish Kumar over the years.

Nitish Kumar was first elected from here in 1989 as a Laloo confidant and retained his seat. But in 1996, he was ranged against Laloo's man Vijay Krishna as he had broken away and formed the Samata Party by then. The 1996 election was a test of strength between Laloo and Nitish. But Laloo's man came off poorly, losing by around 65,000 votes.

Tarakeshwari Sinha -- the stormy petrel of the 1960s -- was elected from here in the first three general elections of 1957, 1962 and 1967.

Topography

Its very name suggests the topography of this constituency. A narrow strip of land 90 kilometres long and 15 to 16 kilometres wide along river Ganga's southern bank, more than half of Barh remains water-logged for well over four-months. In local parlance this huge chunk of low-lying area is known as tal and normally only one crop of masoor is grown here.

Apart from the tal there are several habitable diara areas too and the two are the hotbed of politics and crime. The erosion of agriculture land by the Ganga often leads to land disputes and the consequent bloodbaths.

The constituency's western boundary almost touches the eastern suburbs of Patna. National Highway 30 runs parallel to the Ganga. At places the river almost kisses the road and often during the monsoons flood waters submerge the road.