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Can Kanhaiya Kumar keep BJP at bay in 'Leningrad of Bihar'?

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Patna, Apr 08: Begusarai, long known as the 'Leningrad of Bihar' due to the Left's strong influence, is set to witness a hot contest between left icon Kanhaiya Kumar, a former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union and Union minister Giriraj Singh.

The two leaders of competing ideologies fighting it out on the ground is expected to make an interesting contests.

File photo of Kanhaiya Kumar and Giriraj

Union minister Giriraj is a popular icon of the right wing on social media. While, Kanhaiya, 32, was arrested in February 2016 and accused of sedition for allegedly doing nothing to prevent the raising of anti-India slogans on the JNU campus. Since then, he has been projected as an merging youth leader against the BJP and PM Modi.

Giriraj, who had initial reservations against contesting from Begusarai, gave in after a word with party president Amit Shah, said he had come to Begusarai to defeat the traitor. "Anti-nationals will be given a befitting reply by the people," he said.

Kanhaiya has termed Giriraj as the "Visa minister of Pakistan" and said, "I have been campaigning in the constituency for months, while he was not even ready to contest the polls. People notice these things."

Kanhaiya Kumar's entry has definitely upset Giriraj Singh mainly because he too belongs to the same Bhumihar caste as Kumar. An analysis suggests that if it had been a two-cornered contest, Kanhaiya had a good chance to spring a surprise on the BJP.

Caste equations

Kumar and Singh come from the upper caste Bhumihar community which, with a 4.5 lakh population, is a dominant caste in the constituency.

Upper caste Bhumihar constitute about 19 per cent voters in Begusarai, followed by 15 per cent Muslim, 12 per cent Yadav and 7 per cent Kurmi of the total 19 lakh votes. With Nitish Kumar's party backing the BJP, the party was sure about getting around 37 per cent votes (Bhumihar 19 per cent + upper caste 11 per cent + Kurmi 7 per cent).

The Bhumihar vote holds the key in Begusarai, indicated by the fact that in the past 10 Lok Sabha polls, nine MPs chosen by the voters here have been from the Bhumihar caste. With both Giriraj Singh and Kanhaiya being Bhumihars, much depends on who would garner maximum support from their caste.

Tanveer Hasan is a strong claimant to the seat. He had unsuccessfully contested the seat in 2014 garnering 3.9 lakh votes against Bhola Singh of BJP. BJP candidate Bhola Prasad Singh won here, defeating RJD candidate Hassan by over 60,000 votes.

In 2014, the BJP got 39.73 per cent of the votes, RJD 34.32 per cent and CPI candidate Rajendra Prasad 17.87 per cent. Yogendra Sharma of the CPI won the seat in 1967.

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