Kanhaiya makes BJP, Giriraj sweat but faces uphill task in Begusarai

He is a high profile candidate with a steady stream of celebrity campaigners rooting for him. But in a triangular contest Kanhaiya Kumar is seen by many to be fighting a losing battle

Kanhaiya Kumar 
Kanhaiya Kumar

Farhana Kalam

Even as a section of the grand alliance, particularly some Congress leaders repent not leaving the Begusarai seat to Kanhaiya Kumar, the debutant, irrespective of the final outcome of the election, is giving BJP heavyweight Giriraj Singh a run for his money. On his part, Giriraj, in the very beginning, had to pocket humiliation and pay obeisance to Nitish. Giriraj and Ashwini Choubey, it may be recalled, have been most vocal in criticising CM Nitish Kumar even in the days when the duo were in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet.

If stories doing the rounds in political circles are to be believed, Nitish refused to share the dais with Giriraj in Patna during the pre-poll election rally and as such BJP leaders had to cajole Giriraj to not attend the same. It was only after much persuasion that Giriraj agreed to feign illness to explain his absence from the crucial NDA show.

Not only that, BJP leaders asked Giriraj to mend fences with the Bihar CM and the Union Minister had to tame his ego and visit 1, Anne Marg, the official residence of the Bihar CM.

From the very beginning, Giriraj Singh, according to political analyst Ali Hussain, was reluctant to contest the Begusarai seat against Kanhaiya or to contest any seat for that matter. Political grapevine has it that Giriraj wanted to give the Lok Sabha election a skip and eyed a Rajya Sabha berth. As the party leadership refused to oblige, Giriraj Singh reluctantly entered the fray as the BJP’s only Bhumihar candidate.

Bhumihars, any way, are unhappy with the BJP leadership for giving a short shrift to the caste that apart from Kayasthas and Banias, was the first to join the Hindutva band wagon in Bihar. Rajputs, the traditional rivals of Bhumihars in Bihar politics, walked away with five of the 17 seats being contested by the BJP while Giriraj is the only Bhumihar to contest on the lotus symbol. A few days back, Bhumihar leaders including Dr CP Thakur were specially invited by BJP chief Amit Shah to offer a compensatory package to the caste, post election.

As far as the optics of the election are concerned, Kanhaiya is far ahead as celebrities, including Javed Akhtar, have campaigned for him. His move for crowdfunding too was an instant hit. Campaigning for Kanhaiya in Begusarai, Javed Akhtar asked RJD supporters to vote directly for the BJP as every vote for RJD candidate Tanvir Hasan meant a vote for BJP’s Giriraj Singh.

Politics is a strange game indeed. If Giriraj were to make it to the Lok Sabha this time, it would be courtesy his RJD rival Tanvir Hasan. Yadavs are unlikely to vote for Kanhaiya in any significant number. Elderly Bhumihars too are not inclined towards Kanhaiya who is likely to get OBC, EBC and Dalit votes. Even if all the Yadavs and Muslims voted for RJD candidate Tanvir Hasan, they would not be in a position to ensure the RJD’s victory. And young Muslim voters are rooting for Kanhaiya.

A few days back, senior NCP leader DP Tripathi came down heavily on the Grand Alliance leaders of Bihar for not accommodating Kanhaiya. RJD sources say that crown prince Tejashwi Yadav sees a rival in Kanhaiya and is bent upon cutting the latter’s political career short even if it means gifting a seat to the BJP.

However, it is sheer stupidity on part of Tejashwi Yadav to treat Kanhaiya as a rival, said activist SB Bhaskar, a Kanhaiya fan. Unlike Tejashwi, Kanhaiya would be in Delhi and not a contender for the CM’s post, opined the Left activist.

Kanhaiya, in any case, has made an otherwise non-descript parliamentary constituency one of the most important constituencies of the country this time.

Defending the decision to field Tanvir Hasan from Begusarai, RJD vice-president Shivanand Tiwari said that “Kanhaiya was a rootless wonder, a creation of the electronic media.” RJD had a strong presence in Begusarai and five of the Assembly segments of the Begusarai parliamentary constituency are with the RJD, he added. “Politics is not charity to distribute capital among political parasites,” were his strong words.

Politics is charity in Ara but not in Begusarai, says activist Motibhai. RJD gifted the Ara seat to the CPI(ML-Liberation) just to minimise Misa Bharati’s ordeal in the neighbouring Pataliputra constituency, he contended.

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