Contest for Siwan constituency is headed for a photo finish

Contest for Siwan constituency is headed for a photo finish

If you asked people in Bihar about Siwan, they may tell you with pride that it is the birthplace of Dr Rajendra Prasad, India’s first president.

While this may be a feather in the district’s cap, the same cannot be said about don-turned-politician Mohammed Shahabuddin, who won the Siwan seat for four consecutive terms.

Shahabuddin, known for his muscle power and sophisticated firearms, entered politics when he contested as an Independent in the 1990 state Assembly elections from Zirdai (in Siwan). Soon, he caught the eye of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who took him under his wing.

In 1996, he won the Siwan seat after contesting the Lok Sabha elections on a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ticket.

He then retained the seat for three consecutive terms – 1998, 1999 and 2004.
The former RJD parliamentarian is currently in jail with 32 cases against him, including those of murder, kidnap, extortion, looting; possession of foreign-made weapons, foreign currencies, stolen vehicles and deer-skin.

Old timers in the state still remember how Shahabuddin single-handedly dethroned JD-U’s Nitish Kumar from chief-ministership in 2000, by keeping all prospective party-hoppers confined in a posh hotel in Patna.

As a result, Nitish could not prove his majority and had to resign from the post of chief minister within ten days.

The 2014 chapter

The Shahabuddin episode, however, is now old history. Just a few days ago, the history-sheeter was shifted from Siwan to Gaya central jail to prevent him from influencing the electorate from behind bars.

His wife, Heena Shahab, is contesting from Siwan on an RJD ticket this election.
She contested the 2009 polls, too, but lost to an Independent, Om Prakash Yadav, by nearly 60,000 votes. This time, Yadav is contesting from Siwan as a BJP nominee and is riding high on the apparent “Modi wave” sweeping the country.

In the constituency’s 14 lakh electorate, 3 lakh are Muslims and 2 lakh are Yadavs. While the Muslims’ loyalty towards Heena remains unquestioned, the Yadavs appear to have a split loyalty between Lalu Prasad (RJD) and Om Prakash Yadav (BJP).

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has fielded ex-legislator Manoj Singh, a Rajput, with hopes that as traditional Lalu supporters, votes from Muslims and Yadavs would get divided between the RJD and the BJP.

The JD-U may cash in on Nitish’s “good governance and establishment of rule of law in Bihar’s ‘bad-land’ Siwan”, where people remain terror-struck ever since the JNU leader Chandrashekhar was gunned down in March 1997.

“There is peace in Siwan ever since Shahabuddin was arrested in 2005. But Modi has recently stoked fire after he said that people from Bangladesh will have to leave India. Yahan shanti zaroori hai, lekin sauhard bhi utna hee zaroori hai. (Here peace is as important as equanimity),” Ramji Rai, a Siwan-based trader, told Deccan Herald over the phone.

The constituency will go to polls on May 12.

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