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Central Patna: Congress, NCP face-off

Samir Kumar Mishra in Patna | February 19, 2005 16:17 IST

State unit presidents of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, two constituents of the ruling coalition at the Centre, are engaged in a keen electoral battle for the Central Patna assembly seat.

Bihar Congress chief Ramjatan Sinha and his NCP counterpart, former Central Patna legislator Aquil Haider, are fighting for the seat.

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Voting in Central Patna will take place in the third phase on February 23.

Bharatiya Janata Party state vice-president Arun Kumar Sinha is the third heavyweight in the fray.

In the last five assembly elections since 1980, the BJP has won Central Patna four times.

In 1980, BJP's Shailendra Nath Srivastava had won. Haider, contesting on a Congress ticket, wrested the seat in 1985. BJP's national vice-president Sushil Kumar Modi, now a Lok Sabha member from Bhagalpur, won the seat thrice -- in 1990, 1995 and 2000.

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In the 2000 assembly elections, Modi had won the seat by a staggering 66,069 votes. All other 19 contestants had forfeited their deposits.

While Rashtriya Janata Dal's Kanchanbala had finished second with 19,763 votes, Haider, fighting on an NCP ticket, came third with 13,272 votes.

This year, the RJD has spared the seat for the NCP.

Haider, a close relative of NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar, is now trying his luck here again.

Sinha, who was Modi's election agent in 2000, says the seat is a traditional BJP stronghold.

On whether poor roads, lack of adequate health care and sanitation would work to his disadvantage, Sinha says, "Modiji did a lot of work as an MLA but all the problems could not be addressed by his local area development fund alone. The RJD government neglected this constituency and the electorate knows it."

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Modi, who is campaigning extensively for Sinha, says the RJD had chosen not to contest the seat becaue it is faced with a certain defeat.

On the other hand, Ramjatan Sinha voices confidence that the Congress' unwavering commitment to secularism and United Progressive Alliance government's development agenda would see him through.

"A pro-Congress wave is sweeping the entire constituency and I am getting overwhelming response from all sections of the electorate," he says.

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He even brought film stars to campaign for him To appeal to the young voters, there were Govinda and Suneil Shetty. For the elderly, there was Rajesh Khanna. The stars drew huge crowds wherever they went. Only time will tell how much of their appeal translates into votes for Sinha.

The Lok Janshakti Party president and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan also addressed a series of joint election meetings with Sinha.

Aquil Haider of the NCP is also confident of winning and accuses Modi of doing little for his constituents. "Modi made empty promises. The roads are in bad shape and water supply is a complete mess," he says.

Haider on the other hand, is largely dependent on the Muslim-Yadav vote bank of the RJD for his success as the NCP has little support base in the state.

The BSP, which had secured only 217 votes in the last polls, has fielded Jitendra Kumar Ambashtha.

Complete Coverage: Assembly Elections 2005

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