Nawada will see fight between two powerful castes

Patna: The political battle in the Nawada parliamentary constituency in Bihar is a direct fight again between two powerful castes.

This rural and semi-urban seat, still lagging behind on the development front, will see an electoral battle for local supremacy between a forward caste and a backward caste

As in the previous Lok Sabha poll, the powerful landed upper caste Bhumihar are again in a face-off against the locally dominant backward caste of Yadav.

The ruling NDA has fielded a Bhumihar candidate, while the opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) has nominated a candidate belonging to the Yadav community.

After the Nawada seat went to the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party LJP under the NDA’s seat-sharing formula, the sitting BJP MP and Union Minister Giriraj Singh has been shifted to the Begusarai seat.

There are 13 candidates in the fray in Nawada which will go to the polls on April 11 in the first phase of the seven-phase polls, along with the three other Maoist affected constituencies of Jamui, Gaya (reserved) and Aurangabad.

LJP has fielded Chandan Kumar, the younger brother of former MP Surajbhan Singh, a criminal turned politician.

In his mid-thirties, Chandan is a big builder and is contesting the polls for the first time.

“I will change the face of Nawada, support me”, he says.

Caste equations in Nawada have forced the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to field Vibha Devi, wife of expelled party MLA Rajballabh Yadav who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a minor girl. Yadav lost his membership of the Bihar Legislative Assembly following his conviction.

Yadav is locally known as “dabang” for his muscle power and running illegal sand mining in Nawada. In the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014, he was defeated by BJP leader Giriraj Singh.

RJD’s Vibha Devi is banking on overwhelming support of nearly 3 lakh Yadav voters, considered loyal supporters of the party. Besides, the constituency has over 1 lakh Muslim voters, along with the Other Backward Class (OBC) communities of Koeri and Dalit, who together number more than 1 lakh.

“The Yadav caste is second largest voter by a single caste in Nawada and it appears they will support RJD along with majority of Muslims and Dalits and Koeri voters. Going by this arithmetic, Vibha Devi may put up a strong challenge to the BJP-led NDA in the absence of Modi wave,” said political analyst Satnarayan Madan.

NDA’s Chandan Kumar is mainly banking on support of over 3 lakh voters belonging to his Bhumihar caste.

“For the Bhumihar candidate, Nawada is one of the safest seats in Bihar. Besides, other OBC castes and Dalits traditionally add support to NDA. It has a clear cut edge”, he said.

An uncertain factor in the situation is the voting preference of the extremely backward castes and Dalits, who constitute a sizeable chunk of voters but are not vocal about supporting or opposing either the NDA or the Grand Alliance.

Some issues that concern most of the voters in the constituency include scarcity of drinking water during summers, lack of irrigation, deteriorating law and order, unemployment and development.

The total number of voters in Nawada constituency are 18.92 lakh, consisting of 9.83 lakh male and 9.09 lakh women. The constituency has 6 assembly segments. Of these segments, the RJD and Congress won two seats each, while the remaining two were won by the BJP in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls.