Paswan has an edge in Hajipur

Paswan has an edge in Hajipur

Shivji Paswan of Mahnar, some 40 km east of Hajipur, is in a dilemma. Which of the two Rams should he vote for? Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP chief who has been seven-term MP from Hajipur or Ram Sundar Das, the sitting MP and the JD (U) candidate who trounced Paswan in 2009 in the LJP’s fiefdom.

Like Shivji, many of the voters in Mahnar and other Assembly segments, including Raghopur, Hajipur, Lalganj, Raja Pakar and Mahua, are complaining about the TINA (there is no alternative) factor. “In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, we did not vote for Paswan because he had refused to help Rabri, then an MLA from Raghopur here, become chief minister in the February 2005 Assembly polls. In 2014, Paswan has ditched the RJD again. Having lost the 2009 LS polls, he is at present Rajya Sabha member with the help of RJD legislators (as LJP does not have the requisite strength in Assembly). But he has again deserted Laluji and joined the Modi bandwagon,” said Ram Pravesh Rai, a farmer near Biddupur.

Rai is angry with Paswan for switching sides. But he does not have an option. “I cannot vote for Nitish’s nominee. I cannot vote for the BJP either. The Congress has fielded its candidate as part of an alliance with the RJD, but my conscience won’t allow me to vote for a party whose leader (read Rahul Gandhi) is responsible for Lalu’s conviction and incarceration because of which he cannot contest any polls for now,” Rai, a staunch Lalu supporter, said.

“Agar kisi ko bura lag raha hai, toh mujhe maaf karein (Please excuse me if I have offended someone). But this is true. In Yadav-dominated areas, the RJD votes are unlikely to be transferred to the Congress, which is solely responsible for keeping Lalu out of the poll race,” he added.

The Congress, though aware of the simmering anger of RJD supporters, will not admit it in public, and is, therefore, fighting a lost battle in Hajipur. It has fielded Sanjiv Prasad Tony, a distant relative of Paswan, from Hajipur, making it a triangular contest.

But Ram Sundar Das of JD (U), now in his early 90s, who neither is in good health nor has nursed his constituency well, is drawing flak, despite some word of appreciation for Nitish in this part of the cow-belt. “If you compare Das (who has been Hajipur MP from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2009 to 2014) with Paswan, then the LJP chief is far ahead in terms of development work. One example is the establishment of the head office of East Central Railway (ECR) here. Besides, Paswan has the advantage of the Modi wave and support of BJP cadres (since LJP is now in alliance with the saffron party),” argued Parasnath, a Lalganj-based trader.

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