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With No Assurance of Caste Votes, Can Kanhaiya Kumar Keep BJP at Bay in 'Leningrad of the East'?

File photo of CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar. (PTI)

File photo of CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar. (PTI)

The RJD and Congress have reportedly pledged support to Kanhaiya Kumar, but the firebrand student leader’s ability to bag votes in a parliamentary election is still under question.

Patna: Kanhaiya Kumar, the former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union President (JNUSU), will have no ideological edge in his favour at the electoral hustings as he would be making a strong pitch for himself in the predominantly Bhumihar-dominated Lok Sabha seat of Begusarai, once called ‘Leningrad of East’.

CPI state secretary Satyanarayan Singh told News18 that RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have pledged their support to him. However, the controversial student leader will have to undergo the organisational process of selection of a Lok Sabha candidate.

"The decision has to be taken by the Begusarai district committee. They will recommend names and the state committee would discuss this. We will be forwarding this to our central committee which is authorised to take a final decision,” he said.

But Singh admitted that in principal there is consensus on Kanhaiya’s name because he is being looked upon as a natural candidate from the grand alliance.

A native of Bihat village, under Teghra assembly constituency popularly known as Mini Moscow, Kanhaiya belongs to Bhumihar community which holds the key to the seat being numerically the largest caste in  four out of seven assembly constituencies - Bachhwara, Matihani, Begusarai and Teghra. The Other Backward Castes (OBCs), mainly Kushwahas, and Muslims decide the fate in other three constituencies - Cheria Bariarpur, Sahebpur Kamal and Bakhri.

The upper caste Bhumihars had once turned Begusarai as 'Red Fort' for Communists in fight against landlords belonging to the same community. It was the fight for hot red chilly farming in the vast swathe controlled by a few land lords in the north and pulses in the Taal area which nurtured communist moorings in this belt.

The rising of the oppressed, under the leadership of Bhumihar and other upper caste communist leaders, namely Chandrashekhar Singh, Sitaram Mishra and Rajendra Prasad Singh, turned assembly seats such as Teghra and Bachhwara into such strong citadels of communist ideology that no sympathy wave or ideological movement could alter the Left current.

Teghra, known as Mini Moscow, was a seat controlled by the communists since 1962 to 2010 when the growing BJP wrested the seat. The lone Left bastion of Bachhwara also went to the RJD in 2015.

The fall of Left in Bihar's Leningrad started in the late nineties. Till 1995, five out seven assembly seats were represented by the CPI or CPM. But the rise of Lalu, his anti upper caste moves and massacres on caste lines in central and south Bihar proved a game changer. Bhumihars quickly backed the Congress but the then party president Sitaram Kesari's decision to back the Lalu government shocked them. Not only Bhumihars but anti Yadav OBCs started to look for a new alternative which Nitish Kumar's Samata Party and BJP gave to them. Whatever support the left enjoyed among the upper castes withered in 2000 when the CPI and CPM formed an alliance with Lalu Yadav.

When Kanhaiya Kumar embarks on the poll journey, he would not be assured of the support from his own caste and there is no time or space to ideologically revive the Left either. This is also a fact that despite having enormous influence, the CPI won Lok Sabha election from here only once in 1967.  The NDA candidates have hold the 'red fort' since 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

Kanhaiya, if fielded, might be up against fire brand BJP leader Giriraj Singh as the saffron party has decided to replace the present Begusarai BJP MP Bhola Singh, who is suffering from a prolonged illness.

Kanhaiya will be able to give a fight only if the RJD and Congress supporters vote for him aggressively and he succeeds to wean away the little percentage of Bhumihars votes.