Meira faces uphill task in her father’s fiefdom

With the temperature soaring to 42 degree Celsius, canals in Sasaram, the major source of irrigation here, have started drying up. (DH Photo)

A few days after submitting her nomination papers from the Sasaram parliamentary constituency, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar complained to the returning officer (RO) NK Choudhary that her rival and BJP MP Chedi Paswan should be disqualified from contesting the election.

Reason: The Patna High Court, in 2016, had declared Paswan’s election (in 2014 LS poll, he had defeated Meira) as null and void since he had not mentioned the three criminal cases pending against him. Paswan moved Supreme Court and got the HC order stayed. However, while staying the HC order, the apex court said, “The appellant (Paswan) may attend the sessions of the House and will be entitled to salary etc, but will not have the right to vote.”

Meira cited the SC order (appeal No: 8218/2016) to the RO insisting that a person who has been debarred from voting becomes disqualified for registration of electoral roll and, therefore, his name should be struck off from the electoral roll. Once the voting right is struck, the person becomes disqualified from contesting any poll.

Paswan’s lawyers, however, told the RO that Supreme Court had debarred him from voting in the House and not from exercising his franchise.

The RO eventually rejected Meira’s plea.

Chedi Paswan is now the BJP nominee from the prestigious Sasaram parliamentary constituency from where he had defeated Meira earlier in 1989 and 2014.

It’s a prestige battle for Meira too, who lost the last parliamentary polls after serving as the first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha for five years (2009-14). It’s all the more prestigious battle for her as her father late Jagjivan Ram, the former Deputy Prime Minister, never lost an election from Sasaram since 1952. (He won for eight consecutive times till 1984 parliamentary polls).

“Gone are the days when you can encash your legacy. If you have to win, you have to prove your mettle. And Meira is one politician who rarely visits her constituency or interacts with voters,” lamented Nirmal Mehta, a farmer.

Chedi Paswan’s track record in Sasaram is relatively better. A turncoat, who switched from the JD (U) to the BJP, Paswan is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will address a rally in Sasaram on May 14, three days before campaigning comes to an end on May 17 (for the May 19 election).

Meira, on the other hand, is ploughing a lonely furrow, in the hope that caste configuration of Mahagatbandhan may help her avenge 2014 defeat.

Sasaram Lok Sabha constituency (Bihar)

2014 winner: Chedi Paswan (BJP)

Runners up: Meira Kumar (Congress)

Margin of victory: 63,327

2019 contestants: Meira Kumar (Congress) vs Chedi Paswan (BJP).

Total Voters: 14,02,789.

Polling on: May 19.

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