Ara LS seat set for triangular contest

Place: Ara-Piro highway. Time: 7 am. A dozen odd people are sipping tea at Arjun Rai’s tea stall. This is not Narendra Modi’s chai pe charcha (discussion over tea), but when elections are round the corner, how can political debate remain untouched.

Rai has this tea-stall here for the last 30 years and he has seen various shades of leaders emerged winner from Ara, including the now disbanded Indian People’s Front (IPF) MP Rameshwar Prasad. The leader of the IPF, now called CPI-ML (Marxist-Leninist) had stunned everyone when he defeated the then sitting MP and former Lok Sabha Speaker Baliram Bhagat in November 1989. Bhagat, who was India’s External Affairs Minister too, was a Member of Parliament from here from 1952 to 1977, a record consecutive 25 years, when Ara was known as Arrah, and later again from 1984 to 1989.

From extreme Left to Right-wing parties, Rai has witnessed Ara parliamentary constituency undergoing diametrically opposite shift in the last three decades. “I am a Yadav. But I still won’t vote for Lalu Prasad’s candidate,” Rai opens up, giving credence to the theory that all Yadavs in Bihar have not rallied behind the RJD supremo.
“Now, we too want development. And Narendra Modi the symbol of development. My vote is, therefore, for Modi and his party candidates,” Rai said.

The BJP’s nominee in Ara is the high-profile ex-bureaucrat RK Singh, who last year joined the party after retiring as Union home secretary.

Singh, known as a no-nonsense officer and a tough administrator, is not popular as the BJP nominee but has the backing of the saffron camp. “When he was our boss, every now and then, he would issue orders ‘Suspend him’ or ‘Send him to jail’. He was a foul-mouth IAS officer,” said Ramjivan Sinha, a retired government employee, who had earlier worked under Singh.

“In fact, had he not been a strict officer, Lalu Prasad would not have assigned him the task to arrest Advani at Samastipur on October 23, 1990 when the BJP leader had taken out a rath yatra mobilising support for Ram temple during the Ayodhya movement,” Sinha said.

Singh is originally from Supaul, but he is in the fray from Ara, an upper caste-dominated area, precisely because this happens to be his wife’s hometown.

Pitted against him is the sitting JD(U) MP Meena Singh, who had trounced LJP’s muscleman-turned-politician Rama Singh by nearly 75,000 votes in 2009 elections.

 Meena, widow of former MP Ajit Singh, is facing the public’s wrath, who are miffed with Nitish ever since he severed ties with the BJP. But she is confident that other backward class (OBCs), extremely backward class (EBCs), Muslims and Mahadalits will back her. A claim, which is also being made by RJD candidate Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha. 

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