Its Right vs Left in Begusarai, Bihar

  • May 13, 2024

‘Groundxero’ visited Begusarai going to poll today – a report by Anish Kumar 


 Left parties in Bihar, consisting of CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML-Liberation) didn’t win any parliamentary seats from the state since the last two decades. The last communist MP from Bihar was Subodh Rai of CPI(M) during 1999-2004. CPI has not been able to win from its stronghold Begusarai, called Leningrad, for the last 25 years. Last time CPI had an MP from Begusarai was in 1996-98, while CPI (ML-Liberation) lone MP was in 1989-91 from Ara constituency. Rameshvar Prasad was the first naxal MP elected to the parliament.  


The Left maximum had won nine MP from Bihar in the 1991 election. Out of nine, CPI had won eight seats, while CPI(M) managed to win one seat from Nawada. After that, Left numbers in the parliament from the state have gradually decreased.


This time, the left parties are contesting five seats in Bihar as part of the INDIA alliance. Out of five seats, the toughest battle is going on in Begusarai. It is witnessing a direct and fierce fight between left and right not only electorally but ideologically. BJP is desperate not to lose this seat to its main ideological enemy i.e left. Hence all the big and national level leaders of BJP Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadakri,  UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Assam chief minister Hemant Biswa Sarma came and campaigned in Begusarai. Begusarai is prestigious not only for the BJP but also for the left, which has a very long history of struggle here.


Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate Awadhesh Rai is pitted against BJP MP and central minister Giriraj Singh who is notorious for his communally loaded and controversial statements that make headlines in the media. Giriraj Singh had won the 2019 parliamentary seat by defeating ex-JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar by a huge margin of more than four lakh votes. But his five year term has created a lot of discontent and he is finding it very difficult to get through this time. CPI supported by INDIA constituents have put up a very formidable challenge for the BJP nominee from Begusarai. INDIA alliance main campaigner  and former deputy chief minister of Bihar has also addressed several rallies in the different parts of the constituency.


‘Groundxero’ visited Begusarai and found a palpable anger against Giriraj Singh almost everywhere. Even those who had supported him during the 2019 election are expressing disillusionment with him. His five year tenure as an MP can be understood from the joint appeal of intellectuals and theater artists of the Begusarai to the voters. The appeal said “The sitting MP, who rarely met the common people of Begusarai  during five years, has today become the infamous face of the unethical nexus of rapacious capital and communal hysteria at the state and national levels.” The appeal further added “The present MP, surrounded by a coterie, always promoted the personal interests of some wealthy sections within this district; no opportunities were created for the unemployed youth. Instead of local people of Begusarai, outsiders were appointed to whatever little posts were available. The entire district was left at the mercy of contractors, criminals and corrupt people. No care was taken of the migrating unemployed youth. A large-scale effort was also made to destroy the Ganga-Jamuni syncretic culture of this district.” 


‘Groundxero’ met a 48 year old ex-Wing commander of the Indian Air Force Ranjeet Kumar, who hailed from Bihat village of Teghara assembly segment. Ranjeet Kumar has been regularly campaigning against Giriraj Singh for the past one-and-half months. Ranjeet Kumar made a serious allegation against Giriraj Singh by saying “Duen to Giriraj Singh, Begusarai lost around three hundred crore rupees by various means. But no media house has the guts to point it out. It is very difficult to meet Giriraj Singh. He will always be found in the house of Upendra Singh, a major capitalist and wealthy person of the district and father of local BJP MLA. When ex-army men tried to meet him for some grievances regarding the Indian Oil Corporation guest house, he not only refused to listen to them but used abusive language against the army men. Such people call themselves ‘nationalist! What a joke!”


Giriraj Singh language is also an election issue in Begusarai. When a local youth Saurabh Bhardwaj confronted him during the election campaign by asking “Where were you during the last five years? We were wrong in 2019 when we elected an outsider like you by defeating the son of the soil (He was referring to Kanhaiya Kumar).” 


Giriraj Singh’s stunning reply “I am not a son of Begusarai? I am a son of my mother while you are a son of your father.”This rude reply was the talking point among the common voters of Begusarai. This blunt statement has hurt the feeling of Begusarai due to its inherent offending character.


Just some months ago, BJP Rajya Sabha MP, Rakesh Sinha, who also belongs to Begusarai, went on record and accused Giririraj Singh for using foul and invective language against him. After that a debate erupted about insider versus outsider. Begusarai original village is north of Ganga river while Begusarai town is situated in the south. Village after village who voted for Giriraj in the last election are now in a dilemma about what to do? One supporter of BJP expressed his confusion in these terms “Our hopes were totally dashed by his five year term. He did virtually nothing. He assured me a lot of things but forgot everything. We are not supporters of communists therefore we cannot vote for them but our BJP representatives have also betrayed us. This is the cause of our confusion. We may abstain from voting.” 


Giriraj Singh’s opponent Awadhesh Rai, a three time MLA from Bacchwada constituency is also the district secretary of Begusarai and belongs to backward caste. Since, CPI has fielded a person with backward caste, it may polarize those backward castes who are under the influence of JD(U) and LJP (R). CPI also has a very good mass base particularly among backwards and dalits of the district. Begusarai is the strongest district for any communist party in the entire Hindi belt. CPI has at present two MLA from Begusrai Teghara and Bakhari. CPI and CPI(M) had lost the Bacchwada and Matihani assembly seats respectively in the 2020 assembly election with a very narrow margin. 


There are very encouraging signs from the voters for the Left candidate. Although it also should be kept in mind that in the 2019 parliamentary election BJP won the seat with a huge margin of four lakh votes.


But Manibhushan Singh of Badalpur village contradicted it by saying “In 2019, CPI and RJD fought separately. Although even if we add RJD and CPI votes together it was still much less than the BJP. But one thing should be  remembered: elections are not a game of arithmetic. Had RJD and CPI fought together then the enthusiasm it would have created would have posed a formidable challenge to the BJP. In 2024, both the parties are together, therefore there is no confusion among voters. Consequently, things can go in the left’s favour, this time. ” 


Bhagwan Prasad Sinha, considered a public intellectual of Begusarai, opined “This time the situation is very favourable for the CPI candidate. He will get votes across caste and social combinations. People here are fed up with the BJP MP. This resentment will go in favour of Awadhesh Rai. Except for a few pockets and some segments of upper castes, nobody is enthusiastic about BJP this time. The situation is very different from 2019. It may happen that Giriraj voters may not turn up for him as they don’t have any hope from him. Another important factor is that Narendra Modi’s appeal has been diminishing day by day among voters. All these factors may work in the left’s favour. The Left still has a very strong presence here despite it being a pale shadow of its previous glorious years.”


Niraj Kumar, who teaches at a private college in Dehradun, returned to his village Daniyalpur, to cast his vote. He commented “ I was active during the 2019 election. This time I noticed CPI cadres are very active at the ground level. BJP cadres are also seen but they seem demotivated. They come in, roam around here and there and then post a pictures on social media and go to hotel for rest. For them the campaign is over.”


CPI’s main office ‘Karyanand Bhavn’, named after legendary peasant leader of Bihar, in the heart of Begusarai town near Patel Chowk is buzzing with activists and journalists. People from not only districts but remotest corners of the state are here to campaign for CPI. Some persons from southern states were also present to witness this historic fight. Shatrughan Prasad Singh, the ex-MP of CPI and convenor of INDIA alliance at the district level, said “ Everything is fine here but election expenses have risen dramatically. Despite a strong organizational presence across the district, we are facing a severe fund crunch while for our opponent money is not an issue. But the people are with us. We are fighting money power with people’s power.”


CPI(M) is contesting Khagaria, where voting took place in the third phase on 7th May, and reports coming from Khagaria indicate a very good chance for the left. CPI(ML-Liberation) is fighting three seats in Karakat, Ara and Nalanda parliamentary constituency. Out of the three in Ara there is a direct battle between BJP and CPI (ML-Liberation). 


In Nalanda seat, CPI(ML-liberation) MLA from Paliganj assembly constituency of Magadh region, young Sandeep Saurabh, will take on Shravan Kumar of JD(U). Nalanda is the home town of CM Nitish Kumar, and Shrawan Kumar is the senior cabinet minister in Nitish government. Nalanda is considered to be a stronghold of Nitish Kumar although CPI leader Vijay Singh Yadav has represented this seat several times in the Parliament in the past. 


In Karakat, CPI( ML-Liberation) leader Rajaram Singh is locked in a triangular fight with Upendra Kushwaha of NDA and Bhojpuri Singer Pawan Singh, contesting as an independent. Rajaram Singh is an ex-MLA of Obra, Aurangabad. He is also known for his association with the historic farmers’ struggle against the three farm laws. Therefore a host of famous leaders of that struggle like Yogendra Yadav of Haryana, Ashok Dhavale of Maharashtra and Suneela of Madhya Pradesh attended his nomination ceremony along with other INDIA block leaders.


Pawan Singh’s entry into the electoral battle has made this seat interesting. Commenting on the Karakat constituency, Ganjendra Kant Sharma, leader of Bihar Secondary Teacher Association (BSTA), said “ Political circles are buzzing with the narrative that Pawan Singh is a BJP man who has been put up to cut Upendra Kushawa to size. Pawan Singh entry is a calculated move to undermine the election prospects of Upendra Kushwaha. BJP is playing the same game here that it had played during the 2020 assembly election by fielding LJP on JD(U) seats. The Bhojpuri singer is actually the BJP candidate from Karakat. It will benefit Rajaram Singh.”


In Ara parliamentary seat, INDIA block candidate CPI(ML-Liberation) MLA Sudama Prasad is up against Rajkumar Singh of  NDA. In 2019, Rajkumar Singh had defeated the then RJD supported CPI (ML-Liberation) candidate Raju Yadav with a comfortable margin. Pawan Singh’s candidature may upset the caste calculation of Ara. Pawan Singh and Rajkumar Singh belong to the same caste. Both parliament seats are adjacent to each other, therefore the social composition of one seat may affect the other also. Karakat, Nalanda and Ara will go to poll in the later phases.


Left parties are the most committed political force ideologically among the INDIA partners. Although left parties are contesting only five seats, they are also very active in those seats where other alliance parties are in the fray. 


Left parties had a very good representation in parliament from Bihar in the past but they are now desperately trying to enter parliament anyhow. This time they are in the electoral battle with a lot of hope and enthusiasm. June 4 will tell whether they are able to send a left representative to parliament from Bihar or not.


Anish Ankur is a freelance journalist based in Patna, Bihar.


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