2nd phase Bihar poll: High stakes for Cong, JD(U)

2nd phase Bihar poll: High stakes for Cong, JD(U)

Congress President Rahul Gandhi being garlanded during 'Jan Bhawna Rally', in Purnia, Saturday, March 23, 2019. (PTI Photo)

With the second phase of Lok Sabha elections in Bihar slated for Thursday, stakes are high for the Congress as well as the JD (U).

It’s all the more significant for the Congress as the grand old party, in order to shore up its strength in Parliament, is heavily dependent on these Lok Sabha seats in Muslim-dominated area, also called Seemanchal.

While the Congress has fielded three candidates: Tariq Anwar (Katihar), Mohammad Javed (Kishanganj) and Pappu Singh (Purnia), the RJD has re-nominated its two sitting MPs - Shailesh Mandal and Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav - from Bhagalpur and Banka respectively.

Incidentally, the BJP has not fielded any candidate on any of the five seats which will go to polls on April 18. Nor has the LJP. Ceding all the five seats to its alliance partner JD (U) has made the BJP workers in these constituencies unhappy. More so, because during 2014 Lok Sabha polls, two of the former BJP MPs, Shahnawaz Hussain (Bhagalpur) and Putul Kumari (widow of Digvijay Singh, former Union Minister in Vajpayee regime) in Banka, lost by a slender margin.

“In Bhagalpur, the JD (U) has never won a Lok Sabha election. Yet Nitish has fielded Ajay Mandal as his nominee after denying ticket to former Union Minister Shahnawaz Hussain (of BJP). Muslims have no complaints against Nitish. He has done a lot for the weavers’ community in Bhagalpur. But supporting Nitish’s nominee will mean supporting Narendra Modi. And this is just not possible,” said Mohammad Jameel of Bhagalpur, while speaking to Deccan Herald over the phone.

In Katihar, veteran Congress leader Tariq Anwar, a five-term MP, was in direct contest with JD (U)’s Dulal Goswami. Till Tariq’s former boss Sharad Pawar fielded Md Shakur as the NCP candidate. Shakur is highly unlikely to win but may eat into a sizeable chunk of Muslim votes, which would, otherwise, have gone entirely to Tariq Anwar.

So is the case with Kishanganj where Mahmood Ashraf of the JD (U) and Md Javed (Congress) were engaged in a straight fight. Till Akhtarul Imam (AIMIM) made it triangular.

Banka too faces a triangular contest between RJD and JD (U) and Putul Kumari, where the widow of Digvijay has an edge over her rivals.

However, in Purnia, the direct fight between former MP Pappu Singh (Congress) and sitting JD (U) MP Santosh Kushwaha is headed for a photo-finish.