Lok Sabha Elections 2019: RJD veteran Raghuvansh Prasad Singh faces challenge from…

Considered world’s first republic with an elected assembly of representatives in the 6th century BC under the rule ofLicchavis clan, Vaishali, like elsewhere, is now facing stark electoral realities based on caste arithmetic and muscle power.

Vaishali Lok Sabha seat goes to polls in the sixth phase on May 12.

Former union minister and five-term MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of the RJD is in the fray to regain the Lok Sabha seat he lost to LJP’s strongman Rama Singh in 2014.

This time again, he faces challenge from LJP, which has changed its candidate and fielded Veena Devi, wife of JD(U) MLC and local strongman Dinesh Singh, who worked as the RJD leader’s close political aide for a long time.

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a Rajput, is banking on RJD’s core strength of Muslims and Yadavs, strong Rajput votes, besides the valuable share from GA constituents in the form of Sahnis, Kushwahas and other EBC and OBC castes.

NDA also has its arithmetic ready.

LJP candidate Veena Devi, who had earlier won the Gaighat assembly seat in 2010 on a BJP ticket but lost to RJD candidate by less than 4,000 votes in 2015, is also from Rajput community and could significantly cut into RJD leader’s vote share. Being the NDA nominee, she is banking on the Narendra Modi factor, chief minister Nitish Kumar’s image and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s influence.

“She will get support from not only upper castes, but also OBC, EBC and Scheduled Castes. For a leader like Raghuvansh Babu, who has remained totally untouched by politics of opportunism, it may lead to another grind. He is widely respected, but he is deeply rooted in his ideology and perhaps he does not fit into modern political permutations and combinations,” says Ajay Kumar, a local social activist.

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a widely respected leader across party lines and credited with the implementation of the UPA’s flagship programme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as the union rural development minister, started getting ample hints about the changing political equations and growing influence of money and muscle power in Vaishali in 2009, when he won the last time by a small margin of 22,000 votes against another JD-U’s Vijay Kumar Shukla, a strongman.

The battle will be interesting this time, as Veena Devi has been working hard in the area. Last time, the JD-U had fought independently and its candidate had bagged 1.45 lakh votes. With JD-U now in NDA, Veena hopes to gain. But it may not be easy. Of the six Assembly segments in Vaishali, RJD had five in its kitty, while one went to JD-U in 2015 polls.

Watch | Bihar: Nationalism vs Caste arithmetic | Lok Sabha Elections 2019

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh also seems ready. “Mokama MLA Anant Singh is set to do a road show for Singh with an eye on over one lakh Bhumihar voters in the constituency, while Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha, LJP leader Chirag Paswan and RJD leaders have already held meetings in the area,” says Vijay Kumar, a teacher, adding Vaishali issues have taken a back seat in the buzz created around Prime Minister Narendra Modi both by the NDA and the Opposition.

There are 22 candidates in the fray, including 10 Independents and BSP candidate Shankar Mahto. With so many candidates, slight difference could make a huge difference in case of another close finish.

Also Read | ‘Sceptical of Congress’s minimum income scheme’: NREGA architect

First Published:
May 09, 2019 15:55 IST

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