Lok Sabha elections 2019: Caste lines set in Karakat; NDA pins hope on Modi

Surya Narayan Singh, a retired engineer in his 80s, is sitting on a cemented platform around the football ground of Akorhi Gola high school on Delhri-Bikramganj road.

Sun has just set in, but the children are in no mood to wind up their game.

Singh, however, has weightier things on mind. He is asking a motley group of evening walkers and youths assembled around him to develop the habit of reading.

“Youths are not able to find a suitable job, as they seldom read seriously and go by whatever comes their way through mobiles. They hardly tend to cross-check if they are being fed factual or misleading information. What can Narendra Modi do if youths are not qualified in the real sense to get jobs,” Singh asks, as the people around him nod their heads in affirmation.

Election mood is palpable, with multiple utility vehicles with blaring speakers mounted atop them passing by, appealing people to choose their candidates.

“Landscape of this region of Karakat Lok Sabha seat, comprising parts of Aurangabad and Sasaram, has undergone a sea change, thanks to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. People, mostly women and girls, need not wait for the sunset to relieve themselves. Modi ji has restored pride of every home by equipping them with toilets,” says Roshan Pandey of Dehri-on-sone, while lamenting that caste had never been so prominent as in this election.

Nagender Mahato, a vegetable grower from Gira village in Obra of Aurangabad, says people invariably rely on caste when it comes to marriage and elections. “Koiris played a crucial role in election of Upendra Kushwaha in 2014 polls. This time also, they are backing him, even though he had switched over to the Grand Alliance (GA),” he says, before busying himself in watering plants of bitter gourd in his farm.

Karakat constituency is set to witness a keen contest this time as nominees of NDA and GA belong to the same caste, Koiris, who constitute about nine per cent of the electors. Sitting MP and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha, who was then elected as an NDA candidate, is locked in a direct contest with JD(U)’S Mahabali Singh.

In 2014, Kushwaha won the seat defeating RJD’S Kanti Singh by a margin of about 1 lakh votes, relegating to former MP Mahabali Singh to the third position.

“Given the constitution of Karakat Lok Sabha seat, the GA enjoys an upper hand, having won five of the six assembly segments. Caste wise, NDA and GA are on similar footing, but Kushwaha (Koiris) hold the key,” says Nanikant Mahato, a marginal farmer of Goh.

During an animated debate at a tea stall at a market in Nokha, Abhay Shah, a grocery shop owner, says the NDA has a difficult challenge of defeating Upendra Kushwaha as Yadavs, Muslims and Koiris, who together form a formidable combination of 35% votes, are backing him. “Luck may smile on Mahabali Singh if he manages to woo Kushwahas. EBCS, which also constitute a sizable chunk, may pave the way for success for the JD(U) nominee,” says Shah.

Satyendra Vishwakarma, who owns a workshop of iron grills at Barun Bazar in Nabinagar assembly segment, says EBC votes were also facing cracks due to presence of Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahni into the GA fold. “Bhuiyans and Mallah, who are also in good numbers, may switch sides to support the GA,” he says.

Manish Kant Singh, a first time voter, however, chips in saying the NDA would win the seat as the elections were being fought on the issue of national pride and security. “Kushwaha is a good leader and keeps visiting his constituency. But this election is different. Local issues are immaterial. We are voting for Modiji to uphold the dignity of the country,” he says.

However, farmers of Bikramganj were indifferent to the emotional appeal by the BJP leaders. “We had backed the BJP in the hope that farming would become a profitable vocation. Assurances always do not work. Farmers remained high and dry, as they are still unable to get good returns on the produce for want of required assistance from the double-engine government,” says Vijay Mishra, a marginal farmer of Dawath, adding that they were waiting for ‘Nyay’ now.

First Published:
May 15, 2019 16:03 IST

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