In fourth phase of Lok Sabha Elections 2019, Begusarai the industrial capital of Bihar has attained an astonishing spotlight in last few months. Across different sections of society, it is considered to be the ‘Hot Seat’ with a hi-fi triangular fight. The heavyweights in fray contesting polls are- Giriraj Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtiya Janata Dal’s Tanweer Hassan and former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar representing the Communist Party of India (CPI).
In Begusarai, there are around 4 lakh Bhumihars, 2.5 lakh Muslims, 2 lakhs Kurmi-Kushwahas 1.5 lakh Yadavs, around 3 lakhs of groups comprising Extremely Backward Castes, 1.5-2 lakh Dalits, 1 lakh Brahmins, and around 75,000 Rajputs, among others.
Begusarai Lok Sabha constituency has seven assembly segments namely- Bacchwara, Teghra, Begusarai, Matihani, Bakhri, Cheriya Bariyarpur and Sahebpur Kamal. Out these, Teghra and Begusarai are dominated by Bhumihars and Sahebpur Kamal remains minority dominated region. Caste arithmetic of two segments are traditional decisive factors in a parliamentary election.
The B (Bhumihar) – M (Muslim) Factor:
According to ground reality, only two factors are going to be the game-changers in battle of Begusarai Lok Sabha constituency i.e. Bhumihar community, the traditional vote bank of the BJP and Muslims, the traditional vote bank of the RJD.
Giriraj Singh and Kanhaiya belong to the Bhumihar community which through sociopolitical lenses has remained a loyal votebank of the BJP but this time a large chunk of it is inclining towards Kanhaiya on caste question though the young leader has not been heard taking stand on caste and religious lines. The upper caste seems to be angry with Giriraj Singh’s reluctant yes to Begusarai seat as choice after being denied Nawada. A split in upper caste votes of BJP is most likely to happen.
Rishab Kumar Singh, a graduate student of the G.D.College said, “I am Bhumihar by caste which is known to be loyal towards BJP but this time we are pinning hope on the CPI candidate as he single handedly has put forward his aim for Begusarai and its people which includes good hospital, a University and employment generation. Bhumihar community would choose a local face instead of voting an outsider. To Corner at least 30-35 per cent of Bhumihar votes is the task which practically is not invincible by the red challenger.”
The Muslim factor is resonating with open support to Kanhaiya’s candidature even in bastions of RJD such as Sahebpur Kamal, Matihani where it is a dominant political force. In 2014 polls, RJD’s Tanweer Hassan was sole choice of Muslims across Begusarai but this time its reverse. Muslim youth are seen vocal about choosing Kanhaiya over Tanweer Hassan and reason is his loud and vocal opposition to Narendra Modi’s politics.
During last year’s Ram Navami celebrations, when Hindutva forces tried to provoke Muslims in Baro and Ninga villages, cadres of CPI and All India Student’s Federation (AISF) countered them with the slogan, “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, aapas mein sab bhai bhai…Here absence of veteran leader of the RJD, Tanweer Hassan was taken note by the Muslim community.
In Sahebpur Kamal assembly, the Muslim dominated region- Hyder Ali, a daily wage worker said- I have travelled back to Begusarai from Kolkata to cast vote for the CPI candidate as he’s the young challenger to communal politics.
Mohammad Shakir, an unemployed youth who holds post graduate in Urdu said, only a youth leader like Kanhaiya can understand challenges faced by youth section of society such as unemployment. Muslims have been vocal about respecting Tanweer Hassan’s candidature but their political choice seems to alter this time.
Reports from ground clearly indicate a vote split in traditional vote bank of the BJP (Bhumihar vote) and cracks in RJDs Muslim-Yadav (MY equation) by Kanhaiya’s candidature.Bhumihars and Muslims together account for close to 40% of votes in Begusarai.
While talking to Newsd exclusively, Rajendra Singh, uncle of Kanhaiya Kumar reiterated, “I am among privileged individuals who saw rise of Chandrashekhar Singh, (the leader of CPI who made Begusarai a stronghold of Communist Party) and presently i am acknowledging my nephew’s (Kanhaiya Kumar) popularity among masses beyond caste and religious identity.
Adding further he said, Contemporary situation in Begusarai’s politics compels me to cite a parallel incident. Congress leader Ramcharitra Singh was denied a ticket by his ‘friend’ and then Bihar Chief Minister Shri Krishna Singh. In 1957, Ramcharitra Singh contested as an independent candidate and attained victory. His son later goes ahead to became the foundation laying leader for Communists making it popular as ‘Leningrad of Bihar’.
Kanhaiya is carrying forward the legacy of Chandrashekhar Singh who also became the first elected CPI legislator in Bihar assembly in 1962.
Tanweer Hassan’s clean image and unparalleled experience in politics is what RJD is banking upon with efforts to mobilize votes across OBCs and EBCs whereas Giriraj Singh as a religious hardliner is last hope of the saffron camp. There’s an undercurrent too i.e. no big rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Begusarai puts up question on winnable chances of its candidate.
In 2014, BJP’s Bhola Singh polled 39% vote as winner with Tanweer Hassan as runner up with vote margin of 58,335 & 34.31 vote % and CPI’s Rajendra Prasad Singh was at third position.
Results will end up favouring only one among the three but ransacking of traditional social arithmetic of the BJP and RJD is sure shot to happen.