One of the most verdant areas in the non-Himalayan belt, the Naxalite-dominated Hazaribagh constituency in Jharkhand has been the bastion of present External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha for last few elections.
And with a boosted 'international image' in the wake of Indian foreign policy excelling in the world, Sinha looks confortable here although the CPI will be a big political challenger with a solid vote bank in this area dotted with collieries and divided along caste lines. The Maoist Communist Centre, known for poll boycott calls election after election, remains a big headache for administration.
Sinha had defeated Akalu Ram Mahto by 1,82,642 votes in a 13-cornered contest in 1999 while in 1998, he drubbed Bhuwaneshwar Pd Mehta by 1,63,506 votes in a 8-cornered contest.
Sinha had lost the general election in Hazaribagh in 1984 soon after quitting Indian Administrative Service.
Until 1977, the 'Raja of Ramgarh', Kamakhya Narayan Singh, had hegemonic control over Hazaribagh -- 12 to 14 assembly seats went to whoever enjoyed his patronage. His younger brother Basant Narayan Singh won four Lok Sabha elections from Hazaribagh.
A riot in Hazaribagh in 1989 changed the polling pattern drastically in favour of the BJP. From a mere 7% in 1984, the BJP's vote rose to 44% during 1989 elections. In 1991 it dropped to 29% only to surge again to 34.4% in 1996. And last year with Yashwant Sinha in the fray the party polled a record 46.4%.
CPI polled 39% of the votes in 1989. Its share dropped to 38% in 1991 and subsequently declined steadily to 28% in 1996 and 23% during the last Lok Sabha poll. The JMM candidate has has been constantly getting around 120,000 votes in the last four elections.
TOut of an electorate of more than 12,000,00, almost 55% are backward caste and scheduled tribe voters while 100,000 belong to minority community and 120,000 to forward castes. Entire Hazaribagh district was declared sensitive last time in view of the poll boycott call by Maoist Communist Centre.