Patna Sahib: Shatrughan Sinha vs Ravishankar Prasad
In the battle of two Kayasths, it is a third Kayasth who is not in the fray, whose role may turn out to be crucial
The ‘Bihari Babu’, as Shatrughan Sinha has been known, on Thursday indicated that he would contest from Patna Sahib, whatever be the ‘situation’. “The location will remain the same, whatever be the situation,” he declared before calling on Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.
AICC General secretary in charge of Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil lent confirmation by tweeting that Sinha would be joining the Congress in the first week of April. Sinha has represented the constituency twice since 2009 as BJP candidate. In 2004 Ram Kripal Yadav, then with the RJD, had won the seat.
With the BJP fielding Union Minister Ravishankar Prasad, the battle lines are drawn in the battle of Kayasthas. Patna Sahib is arguably the only constituency in Bihar where Kayasthas can swing the election. And with two Kayasthas fighting it out, the result is anybody’s guess.
Kayasthas, say some observers, may decide to vote for Sinha and ensure a second Kayasth MP from the constituency. With Prasad already being in the Rajya Sabha, it might serve the community better, they reckon, to have Sinha in the Lok Sabha. Both Prasad and Sinha of course are residents of the city.
What has added a little uncertainty is the presence of a third Kayasth from the city, R.K. Sinha, who was also interested in either contesting the election or getting his son to do so. With RK Sinha also being a Member of the Rajya Sabha, Kayasths of Patna have never been so well represented in Parliament.
But RK Sinha, who had declared a personal wealth of Rs 800 Crore while getting elected to the Rajya Sabha, will have to help out Prasad if he hopes to win.
Prasad, a four-time Member of the Rajya Sabha has never contested even a municipal corporation election. The only direct election he won was when he was a student in Patna University and became the secretary of the students’ union. That was 45 years ago when Lalu Prasad and Sushil Kumar Modi were the president and vice president and they took part in the JP Movement.
Besides the above mentioned three Kayasthas leaders another Kayasth, from the world of entertainment, Shekhar Suman, had a brief stint in politics. However, he was not cut out for this job. He contested on Congress ticket from Patna Sahib in 2009, but after having lost the election went back to Television.
Though Ravi Shankar Prasad, like Shatrughan Sinha, was considered an Advani loyalist in the BJP, he quickly adjusted to the new situation. Shatrughan, who had served as Shipping and Transport minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, found himself left high and dry.
The situation reached such a pass that he, though being an MP from Patna Sahib, was not invited to attend the party's rally on Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14, 2015, where the main speaker was the party chief Amit Shah. So the Bihari Babu became a victim of the inner tussle within his own caste as well as party.
Analysts are of the view that he will have to concentrate more in the three semi-urban and rural assembly segments of his constituency, that is Bakhtiarpur, Fatuha and Patna Sahib, as they have substantial backward caste votes.
Much will depend on Kurmi voters. As chief minister Nitish Kumar belongs to this caste everyone will be looking at their voting pattern.
Nitish has had cordial relationship with both the candidates in the race. Even when Shatrughan was in the BJP and Nitish in the Grand Alliance, the former used to praise him. Besides, the Bihari Babu always maintained a very good relationship with Lalu Prasad.
Patna Sahib promises to be a battle royal.