Bibhutipur (Bihar): In an otherwise NDA-versus-Grand Alliance battle in Bihar, this is one area where the Left is a formidable force. No wonder, Bibhutipur is known as the 'Moscow' of Samastipur.
By all accounts, there is a triangular contest on here, with Ramdeo Verma of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) fighting to get elected to the Bihar assembly for the seventh time.
Verma, 68, has won this seat six times since 1980, except for 1985 and 2010. He is backed by a broader Left coalition.
In 1985, he lost to CongressÂ’ Chandrabali Thakur and in 2010 to Rambalak Singh of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
Singh, 44, had contested on a LJP ticket in 2005 and lost to Verma by more than 10,000 votes. But he won five years later.
The Grand Alliance led by the ruling JD-U has again fielded Singh here whereas the LJPÂ’s Ramesh Rai, 42, a brother-in-law of former MP Surajbhan Singh, is the candidate of the BJP-led NDA.
Altogether eight people are in the fray in Bibhutipur, which voted on Monday. All three leading candidates -- of the LJP, JD-U and CPI-M -- are from the Kushwaha community and graduates.
Â“After a long time Bibhutipur is witnessing a triangular fight as all three alliances have a good presence in the area,Â” S.K. Prasad, a resident and a state government employee, told IANS.
According to him, the NDA was banking on its social equations as well as what it considers to be a Narendra Modi wave a la 2014.
The CPI-M is relying on its well-knit cadre strength and Kushwaha voter base.
The JD-U is, however, said to be facing anti-incumbency as its outgoing legislator Singh is widely accused of having done nothing in the past five years to develop the constituency.
Like the other two, Singh is also banking on Kushwaha votes as well as Rajputs, Prasad said.
Bibhutipur constituency, home to 2.23 lakh voters, is dominated by Kushwahas, followed by Bhumihars, Rajputs and Yadavas.
Â“Kushwahas of Bibhutipur vote en masse. And whichever candidate they support, wins. This has been the trend here. Days before polling, they get together at a 'dal-bhat' party and decide who to support. This message is conveyed to the community,Â” journalist Sanjeev Choudhary said.
But this trend has changed since the 2014 Lok Sabha election, he said.
CPI-MÂ’s Verma has been winning this seat primarily because of the support of Kushwahas. He is also known to champion the cause of the weaker sections. But in the last assembly polls, Kushwahas decided to support the JD-U.
Â“If Kushwaha votes gets divided like last time in the Lok Sabha polls, the NDA might have an edge as they have support of Rajputs and Bhumihars,Â” added a long-time resident.
(Brajendra Nath Singh can be contacted at Brajendra.firstname.lastname@example.org)