Bhagalpur has been known for long as a BJP stronghold, which even RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav could not decimate during the peak of his political powers in the 90s, but as the silk city of Bihar goes to polls on Tuesday it has come to symbolise the risk the ruling NDA faces from its former constituent Lok Janshakti Party in these assembly elections. This is among the few seats where the Chirag Paswan-headed party has fielded a candidate against the BJP while going out all guns blazing against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-headed JD(U) across the state.
The LJP’s clever ploy of backing influential local politicians, mostly upper castes, with its traditional support base of a section of Dalits to make a space for itself in the state’s crowded political arena has upset the traditional calculations in this constituency, members of different political parties say. It has given ticket to former BJP politician Rajesh Verma, a young and resourceful leader coming from the Marwari community, and his potential draw among the trading castes, who are in large numbers here, is keeping the saffron alliance on edge.
The BJP had been winning the seat since 1990 till the election of Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey, who was chosen MLA for four times in a row from here, to Lok Sabha in 2014, and the party’s separation with the JD(U) gave the opposition an opening. Ajeet Sharma of the Congress won from here in the 2014 bypoll and then in the 2015 elections, and is now in the fight against BJP’s Rohit Pandey.
The pique within the JD(U) that the LJP has pitted candidates against it across the state while largely sparing the seats where the BJP is in the fray, has also come into play here after a purported audio clip of Bhagalpur MP Ajay Kumar Mandal, who is from the JD(U), asking a party worker to not campaign for the saffron party candidate in an assembly seat in the district went viral. Mandal, later, claimed that the clip had been manipulated to portray him in a bad light.
The other seats where LJP has fielded contestants against BJP are Govindganj, Lalganj, Raghopur and Rosda.
(With PTI inputs)