They are the wives and widows of 'bahubalis' - as
criminal-turned-politicians known for their muscle power are known
in Bihar. But their political rivals are giving them sleepless
nights ahead of the elections starting Thursday.
Lovely Anand, Ranjeet Ranjan, Bima Bharti, Bima Bharti, Punam Devi,
Lesi Singh, Annu Shukhla, Damyanti Devi, Guddi Devi and Munni Devi
have two things in common. They are the spouses of bahubalis and
are all contesting the polls.
Unfortunately for them - most of them are caught in tough
triangular and multi-cornered contests.
"They are being challenged in their husbands' strongholds as the
political environment has changed," Kanchal Bala, a woman social
activist, told IANS.
She said their husbands' bahubali tag puts them in a difficult
situation because silent voters hardly support them. "People no
longer follow the diktats of bahubalis," Kanchal Bala said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist youth leader Gopal Prasad Sharma
said that wives of criminals-turned-politicians were facing a
tough task due to the presence of rivals with similar backgrounds
as well as candidates with a clean image.
"Either they are facing candidates with criminal backgrounds as
their rivals or, in some cases, they are in trouble due to rivals
with a clean image," Sharma said.
Many of the women are contesting elections as their husbands have
been convicted and punished in the last five years. Some are in
jail and have fielded their wives as they have been disallowed by
courts to contest. The widows of notorious gangsters who were
killed in gang war are also in the fray.
Congress candidate Lovely Anand, the wife of former MP Anand
Mohan, a criminal-turned-politician who is in jail, is facing a
difficult battle in Alamnagar constituency.
Pushpraj, a human rights worker, said people have been discarding
criminals in politics. "People are fed up with their husbands and
know that voting for them (women candidates) means voting for
Lovely Anand is being challenged by the softspoken and suave
Janata Dal-United (JD-U) nominee Narendra Narayan Yadav, known for
his clean image. Yadav is the land reforms minister in Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar's government.
Lovely's husband has now become her strength and weakness. Anand
Mohan was convicted and awarded the death penalty for inciting a
mob that lynched Gopalganj district magistrate G. Krishnaiyah in
1994. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the Patna
Lovely is hoping her caste men - Rajputs - will back her.
Another Congress candidate, Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of former MP and
murder convict Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, is also fighting a
tough battle in Bihariganj constituency in Madhepura district.
She is competing against main rival Renu Kumari Kushwaha, known to
be close to Nitish Kumar, who has been camping in Madhepura to
campaign in the Kosi river belt.
A former MP, Ranjeet Ranjan is a good orator and liked for her
down to earth approach, But her husband Pappu Yadav's criminal
record may prove costly for her. She is relying on the support of
Bima Bharti, wife of Awadesh Mandal, is seeking re-election on
JD-U ticket. She is taking on Shankar Singh of the Lok Janshakti
Party (LJP) in Rupauli in Purnea district. Bharti's husband Mandal
and Singh are considered symbols of terror in the region.
Punam Devi, wife of criminal-turned-politician Ranvir Yadav, is
seeking re-election from Khagaria constituency in Khagaria
district. Her main rival is Sushila Devi Yadav of the LJP.
According to Anish Ankur, a theatre activist, the wives and widows
of convicted criminal politicians and gangsters are unpopular.
"There are few takers for them. This election will prove that
bahubalis hardly matter."
But still many are taking the plunge.
Former legislator Lesi Singh, wife of slain ganglord Butan Singh,
is contesting from Dhamdaha constituency against sitting Rashtriya
Janata Dal (RJD) legislator Dilip Yadav, who wields considerable
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Damyanti Devi, the wife of
notorious criminal Bhagir Yadav, is contesting in Narpatganj
Annu Shukhla, wife of JD-U legislator Munna Shukhla who is
currently in jail in the murder of former Bihar minister
Brijbihari Prasad, is the JD-U candidate from Lalganj
Elections to the 243-seat state assembly will be held in six
phases, from Thursday and go on till Nov 20.