Will Arrah Voters Remember 90s' Communist Clashes as CPI(ML) Nominee Takes on NDA’s Bureaucrat MP
While positive sentiments for the RJD are likely to help the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, in Arrah, its support for the CPI(ML) Liberation may not help in consolidation of votes for the alliance in Arrah.
Patna: Arrah in Bihar has a distinguished place in the history of Naxal movement as it was here that the first organised and serious security challenge was thrown to the Indian state.
Ekwari, an unobtrusive village, some 35km from the district headquarters in Arrah, was where the seeds of Maoism in Bihar was sown and it was the Arrah district which got the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation its first electoral victory in 1989 with Rameshwar Prasad winning the local Lok Sabha seat as the Indian People’s Front candidate.
Prasad managed to break the Congress’ dominance, but lost the seat in 1991 and this Communist bastion soon became a Janta Dal stronghold. In 2004, the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) won this seat and in 2009, it was the Janata Dal (United) that registered its victory here.
However, in 2014, RK Singh from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the seat and became a Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy in the Narendra Modi government.
In the 2014 election, the CPI(ML) Liberation fielded Raju Yadav who stood third with over 98,000 votes (11.06%) after the RJD’s Sribhagwan Singh Kushwaha who secured over 2.55 lakh votes (28.57%).
This time, the RJD is supporting CPI(ML) Liberation’s Yadav as the grand alliance candidate.
Arrah is the lone seat that the RJD gave away to the Left party as part of the Mahagathbandhan’s seat-sharing pact. In turn, the CPI(ML) withdrew its candidate from Patliputra.
On the other hand, while the JD(U) had garnered 75,962 votes (8.50%), the BJP’s RK Singh won the election with over 3.91 lakh votes (43.78%). The Nitish Kumar-led party and the saffron camp have allied to contest the undergoing election together.
A total of the CPI(ML) Liberation and RJD’s voteshare takes it to around 40% of the total votes polled, and if the JD(U) and BJP’s votes are added, it comes to around 52%.
While this is pure arithmetic, elections in India have thrown surprises that have belied the best of calculation.
Arrah has seven Assembly segments — Arrah, Barhara, Sahpur, Jagdishpur, Tarari, Saandesh and Ajion (SC reserved seat)
In the 2015 state election, Tarari was won for the first time by the CPI(ML), while the rest of the six seats were won by the then RJD and JD(U) combination.
The demography of Arrah gives the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) an edge with Rajputs being the highest in percentage, followed by Yadavs, Brahmins, Bhumihars, Kushwahas and Muslims. Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes also have a sizeable population to influence the result.
At a tea stall at Dharman Chowk in the district, a group of young men discussing the possible results of the elections throw the arithmetic to the wind and relies on popular sentiments to give their verdicts.
Ravi Ranjan Yadav, a student of Veer Kuwar Singh University, while applauding the work done by the former CPI (ML) MP, especially his efforts in getting a University Grants Commission (UGC) recognition for Veer Kunwar Singh, says, “Raju Yadav has all the qualities to become our representative as he is one of us. He has fought for student’s causes several times and is vocal on issues concerning the marginalised sections of society.”
Yadav, who seemed to be accessible to many, is also regarded as the one responsible in preventing a closure of the Maharaja Law College.
Imran Faiz, who runs a welding shop near Dharman Chowk in Arrah, also favours the alliance of RJD and CPI (ML). “The two parties may defeat the BJP easily as both of them together can become a strong force,” says Faiz.
Yadav said, “I am confident of my victory as the people of Arrah would elect a democratic voice and not a ‘Manuwadi’ (divisive) force to Parliament.”
However, there are several others who expressed their satisfaction with the incumbent BJP.
According to some locals, as RK Singh was earlier the home secretary in the Union government, his vast experience as a bureaucrat is helping in the smooth completion of the projects he had initiated in the region.
Works like construction of the Koilwar six-lane bridge, four-laning of the Arrah-Buxar road and opening a medical and engineering college have raised hopes for further development in the region.
Pawas Kumar, a local businessman, while talking about the work done by Singh stresses how Arrah has changed in the last five years.
“We want development and Singh knows how to carry forward the work in the region. Also, we don’t want resumption of the bloodbath of the 90s that was a result of a bitter rivalry between Communist cadres and upper-caste militia-like Ranvir Sena.”
There are also local issues which could play a deciding factor, even as many people feel a strong NDA government at the Centre and a BJP-JD (U) government in Bihar will be helpful in addressing these issues.
Giridhari Singh, a social worker while applauding the work of the NDA said, “There are issues like poor traffic management, increase in crime and unemployment among the youth that needs to be addressed and a lot of people here feel it will be possible only if there is JD (U)-BJP alliance in Bihar which will have the support of the NDA government at the Centre.”
While positive sentiments for the RJD are likely to help the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, in Arrah, its support for the CPI(ML) Liberation may not help in consolidation of votes for the alliance in Arrah. Though the fight is tough, 23 May can spring a surprise.
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