It's a Prestige Battle For Friends-turned-foes Upendra Kushwaha & Nityanand Rai in Bihar's Ujiarpur
Upendra Kushwaha was a key ally of the NDA in 2014, but is contesting against Nityanand Rai, who is the BJP’s nominee from the seat.
File photos of RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha and BJP's Bihar chief Nityanand Rai.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and divides worlds between friends and enemies.
Nityanand Rai and Upendra Kushwaha, who had campaigned for each other in the 2014 parliamentary election, are at loggerheads in Ujiarpur constituency, this time.
Both of them are the chiefs of their respective party in Bihar. Nityanand Rai being the state unit president of the BJP is contesting against the president of
Rastriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), Upendra Kushwaha, who was a key ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the last parliamentary election.
Ajay Kumar of the CPI(M) is trying to make the contest a triangular one.
RLSP general secretary Fazal Imam Malick said, “Rai threw an open challenge and our party president accepted it. Hence, the contest.”
“During the last election, we were a part of the NDA, so our leader had campaigned for Rai. However, we were forced to leave the alliance as we were offered two seats in place of three, which is an insult,” he added.
The RLSP had wanted to contest from all the seats it had won in 2014, something the NDA was unwilling to accept.
He said Kushwaha was contesting from the two seats of Karakat and Ujiarpur as they were politically important.
He said, “By defeating the BJP state president in Ujiarpur and (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar’s close aide Mahabali Singh in Karakat, we would be able to prove our relevance in Bihar’s polity.”
Rai, however, said, “Had Kushwaha accepted the challenge, he wouldn’t have been in fray from Karakat. He has betrayed his allies Nitish Kumar and the BJP. People would vote against political opportunism by defeating him in both the seats.”
Kushwaha, who is the incumbent MP of Karakat, has the demography of Ujiarpur in his favour, and hence, the choice.
The Kushwaha community has a bigger population in this constituency than the Yadavs and Muslims.
On the other hand, the consolidated votes of Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), upper castes and Paswans among the Dalits may prove to be a potent force to challenge any combination here.
Rai had won the seat by a margin of 1.5 lakh votes in 2014. The second and third positions were secured by Alok Mehta of the RJD and Ashwamegha Devi of the JD(U).
Rai had received 36.95% votes, while Mehta and Devi’s share was 29.91% and 13.93% votes, respectively.
In the ongoing election, the JD(U) is an important ally of the BJP, and Kushwaha, who has stitched ties with the RJD, is relying heavily on the grand alliance’s support base in the state.
Satyasangh Bhardwaj, a lecturer from Sarai Ranjan in Ujiarpur, said, “Social equation is not as important as it was in the assembly election. Both the contestants have support across castes. Here, performance of the NDA and the Prime Minister’s stature have blurred the caste divides.”
However, Chandan Kumar, a resident of Patepur Assembly seat in Ujiarpur, has a different opinion. “Performance of the sitting MP, construction of a railway over bridge in Dalsingh Sarai along with the national issue of unemployment are important here,” he said.
Rai, while campaigning, has been giving the impression of becoming a minister at the Centre after the Lok Sabha election.
Both the leaders are striving hard and trying to play their cards smartly to ensure their victory and prove their significance in Bihar politics.
Kushwaha is raising the issues of ‘dawai, kamai, padhai aur sinchai’ (medicine, employment, education and irrigation) to target the JD(U) government at the state and the BJP dispensation at the Centre. The other topic that has drawn the RLSP’s attention is reservation in the judiciary.
However, Rai has continued to focus on national issues, like security and sovereignty, besides the success of certain welfare schemes, including Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Swachch Bharat, Ujjwala Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
Meanwhile, the electorate has kept its choice close to its heart. Ramii Yadav, a local, said, “We are a little confused. Whether to vote an ally of the RJD or the BJP candidate who belongs to my community.”
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