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September 24, 1999


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Laloo vs the united opposition in Bihar

Neeraj Bajpai in Patna

Yet another 'gun belt' of Bihar, comprising 19 Lok Sabha constituencies in the central and northern parts of the state, goes to polls tomorrow against the backdrop of Laloo Prasad Yadav fighting to offset the consolidation of opposition forces represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United).

The former chief minister's Rashtriya Janata Dal had won seven of the 19 seats last year.

The BJP, the Samata Party and the Janata Dal together had bagged eleven seats, while the RJD's current poll partner, the Congress, had a solitary success in Begusarai.

The first phase of polling on September 18, marred by violence, had covered 19 seats in south bihar. The state has a total of 54 Lok Sabha seats.

In Bhojpur region, where nine seats go to polls tomorrow, polling for two seats -- Sasaram and Bikramganj -- was held in the first phase.

A Naxalite hotbed, this region had recorded the largest number of cases relating to booth capturing and killings during last elections.

According to a UNI-C voter analysis, only 30 per cent voters here are literate and eighty seven per cent are engaged in agriculture-related activities.

Here is a quick profile of the nine constituencies in Bhojpur region:

SIWAN: The birth place of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Siwan, was once a peaceful place. Today, however, guns and not ballots decide the fate of candidates.

The BJP won this seat only once in 1989. In the earlier decades the voters here favoured the Congress. The seat went into the Janata Dal kitty in 1991.

Thereafter, the era of violence began and Syed Shahabuddin won the seat on a JD ticket in 1996. He was facing several charges under various sections of the IPC at that time. He retained the seat in 1998 on a RJD ticket.

Shahabuddin is once again in the fray with JD (U) nominee Akhlaque Ahmad as the main opponent. Siwan is a Muslim-dominated constituency with the community constituting 17 per cent of the electorate.

GOPALGANJ: Laloo Prasad Yadav's hometown has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. However, the situation underwent a dramatic change in 1984 when despite a country-wide sympathy wave following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Congress not only lost this seat but its candidate S K Mishra forfeited his deposit.

The winner, Kali Prasad Pandey, known as Robin Hood of central and north Bihar, had captured the seat as an independent. Pandey contested the 1996 polls on a Congress ticket and was trounced by Lal Babu Yadav (JD). Subsequently, he joined the RJD but was defeated again by Abdul Gafoor in 1998. This time, he is in the fray against Laloo Yadav's friend-turned-foe Raghunath Jha (JD-U).

Comprising six assembly segments, this constituency is dominated by Muslims followed by Rajputs, SCs and Ahirs.

MOTIHARI: This is where Mahatma Gandhi conducted his first satyagraha in 1917 after returning from South Africa. Little of the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence has, however, survived.

The CPI candidate, K M Madhukar, won this seat thrice. In 1996 R M Singh of the BJP won this seat, but the RJD's Rama Devi wrested it from him in 1998. The two are once again in the fray.

The caste-wise breakup of Motihari's voters is as follows: Muslims 15 per cent, SCs 17 per cent, Ahirs 10 per cent and Bhumihar, Brahmins and Rajputs (5 per cent each).

ARRAH:The sitting MP H P Singh is again in the fray in Arrah as a JD (U) nominee against the RJD's Ram Prasad Singh. The voter profile shows that Ahirs dominate this constituency comprising 18 per cent of the total voting population followed by SCs (17 per cent), Muslims (8 per cent), Rajputs (8 per cent) and Brahmins (7 per cent).

BAGHA:Samata Party candidate Mahendra Baitha won Bagha seat in 1996 and retained it in 1998 defeating his nearest rival Purnamashi Ram of the JD by a margin of almost 45,000 votes. This constituency is dominated by SCs (19 per cent) followed by Muslims (18 per cent) and Ahirs (9 per cent.)

BETTIAH:The Muslim-dominated Bettiah constituency was captured by the BJP in 1996. Party candidate Mahendra Prasad Jaiswal then won the seat by a margin of over 50,000 votes. He retained the seat in 1998 defeating his closest rival the RJD's Motiur Rahman. This time, however, the main contest is between Mahendra Bitha (JD-U) and Purnamasi Ram (RJD). The caste breakup here is as follows: Muslims (22 per cent), SCs (15 per cent), Ahirs (10 per cent), Brahmins (7 per cent) and Kurmis (7 per cent).

CHAPRA:This is where Laloo Prasad Yadav won for the first time in 1977 on a BLD ticket. However, he lost to the Janata Party candidate Satyadeo Singh in 1980. He recaptured the seat in 1989 on a JD ticket. In 1996, BJP candidate Rajiv Pratap Rudi won here by a margin of almost 15,000 votes. In 1998, RJD candidate Heera Lal Rai wrested this seat from him. Both are once again the fray this time.

This constituency is dominated by Ahirs (18 per cent), followed by SCs (13 per cent), Rajputs (10 per cent), Muslims (9 per cent), Brahmins and Koeris (7 per cent each).

MAHARJGANJ: In 1996, Samata candidate Ram Bahadur Singh won the Maharajganj seat by a huge margin of over 1,50,000 votes. The party improved its margin to over two lakh votes in 1998, though the candidate was changed.

Sitting MP Prabhunath Singh is once again in the fray here against Congress candidate MP Singh who was the runner-up last time. The Caste profile of this constituency is as follows: Muslims (12 per cent), SCs (13 per cent), Ahirs (14 per cent), Rajputs (11 per cent), Brahmins (8 per cent) and Koeris (7 per cent).

BUXAR: Situated on the banks of the Ganga, Buxar is the most fertile area of the state. It is also mentioned in history books as the site where the British established their supremacy first.

This constituency is currently represented by Lal Muni Choubey of the BJP. This grassroots politician had won this seat in 1996 and retained it in 1998. This time, he is once again in the fray against Shivanand Tiwari (RJD) and Tej Narain Singh (CPI).

Buxar is predominantly Muslim with 75 per cent of its voters belonging to the minority community.

There are five seats in the Wazika Mithila region -- Hajipur, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Barh. The area suffers from underdevelopment and the literacy rate is also quite low here.

In the 1998 polls, the RJD had bagged three of these five seats. While Hajipur remained in Ram Vilas Paswan's pocket, Barh was bagged by Nitish Kumar.

HAJIPUR:Former union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, whose name entered the Guinness Book of World Records after his victory with a margin of four lakh votes in 1977, is once again placed comfortably here. The RJD's Ramai Ram and five others are in the fray here but they are not much of a competition to Paswan who has awesome reputation as a vote getter.

VAISHALI:Vaishali, known for its mangoes and mahua, has sitting MP Raghuvans Prasad Singh (RJD) facing Anand Mohan Singh's wife Lovely Anand who has the backing of the BJP-JD(U) combine.

MUZAFFARPUR: Capt Jai Narain Nishad, after quitting the RJD, is in the fray as a JD (U) nominee here. He is locked in a keen contest with Mahendra Sahni of the RJD.

DARBHANGA: M A H Fatmi, a close associate of Laloo Prasad Yadav is taking on the BJP's cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad here.

BARH: This violence-prone constituency has already witnessed poll related incidents. Former Railway Minister Nitish Kumar is facing the RJD's Vijay Krishna here. It is one of the two lok sabha constituencies in central Bihar where Kurmis, the Samata Party's mainstay, constitute the single largest caste group.

In the Anga Magdh region there are five constituencies -- Balia, Monghyr, Begusarai, Patna and Nalanda -- that will go to polls on Saturday.


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53 per cent vote in violence-hit poll

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