Kirti Azad batting on a sticky wicket

Kirti Azad batting on a sticky wicket

Far from the hustle and bustle of Darbhanga main market, a debate rages on among voters–who visited the city more? The National Investigation Agency (NIA) team or cricketer-turned-MP Kirti Azad?

The answer is the NIA team which frequented the city in search of Indian Mujahideen modules more than the sitting BJP MP.

“Kirti Azad is a hawa-hawai MP, who makes tall claims but at ground-level is a non-performer. He will always blame the district officials for non-execution of any of the development schemes here,” averred Sanjay Yadav, a local businessman, who had voted for Kirti last time but is having second thoughts this time around.

In that case, will he opt for the other Brahmin Sanjay Jha, a Nitish Kumar loyalist, who has been fielded by the Janata Dal-United (JD-U)?

“The JD-U candidate is not even in the race. Sanjay Jha was earlier with the BJP but he changed colours and joined Nitish. He will pay the price for joining hands with the man (Nitish) who came to power with the help of the BJP but due to personal ego dumped the saffron party,” says Yadav.

The fight in Darbhanga is between Kirti and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) candidate and Lalu’s confidant Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi.

“The way the NIA sleuths have treated the Muslims here has made the minorities firm up their mind to back Fatmi to the hilt,” said septuagenarian Abdul Salam of Barh Samaila, a Muslim-dominated village 20 km from here.

“Fatmi remains our only well-wisher who stood by us through the thick and thin. Ever since he lost to Kirti in 2009, we have been hounded by the local police and Delhi police (in an apparent reference to the NIA and Intelligence Bureau team), who have portrayed all of us as terrorists,” added Abdul, whose son was picked up by the NIA two years ago.

Fatmi’s popularity among the Muslims and Yadavs can be gauged from the fact that he has won from here four times since the 1991 elections, including the 2004 polls when he defeated Kirti with a margin of nearly 1.5 lakh votes and became a Union minister in UPA-I.

Five years later, the Brahmins avenged Kirti’s defeat when they ensured that the youngest son of former chief minister of Bihar Bhagwat Jha Azad was sent to the Lok Sabha in 2009.

“Kirti’s advantage is that the youths in Darbhanga, Benipur, Bahadurpur and Alinagar, cutting across caste, creed and religion, are extending him a rock-like support in the name of Narendra Modi. But this is being silently watched by Muslims and Yadavs, too, who will leave no stone unturned to ensure Fatmi romps home in 2014,” argues 50-year-old Vishnukant Jha, a local trader.

Vishnukant cites the three-way split of Brahmin votes which has given Fatmi an edge in the multi-cornered contest.

“Apart from Kirti and Jha, a small chunk of Brahmins votes will go to the Aam Aadmi Party candidate Dr Prabhat Ranjan Das too. And this could spoil Kirti’s party,” he added.

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