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Bihar: Sadanand Singh sits pretty
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October 23, 2005 17:09 IST

Former Bihar assembly speaker and state Congress boss Sadanand Singh is least perturbed by National Democratic Alliance's accusation of the Congress being responsible for foisting a second election in less than a year on a resource-starved state, as he goes around seeking an eighth term.

Singh, an old Congress warhorse is confident of victory in his pocket borough, which returned him to the assembly a record seven times.

"It will be a cakewalk again and all my opponents will forfeit their security deposits as they did in February," says Singh, who was first elected from here in 1969 and lost only twice in 1990 and 1995.

However, Singh is leaving nothing to chance.

When this correspondent caught up with him at Muslim dominated Jaikhuth village, he was on the campaign trail soliciting votes in the name of development and communal harmony.

His confidence stems largely from the development work he has done for the constituency.

"My work speaks for me. A number of schemes initiated and executed by me has endeared me to the voters and I hope to increase the victory margin in the February elections (29,561 votes)."

Singh was instrumental in setting up a power grid at Kahalgaon and a power sub-station at Sanhaul as a result of which people get uninterrupted electricity for 2 to 22 hours a day, a luxury by Bihar standards.

Besides, 113 tube wells were sunk with the help of Nabard and, unlike other constituencies, all schools and primary health centres have pucca buildings.

Gautam Singh, a ward councillor of Goradih panchayat, also vouches for the development done by adhyakshaji, as Sadanand Singh is respectfully addressed, and avers that the election is a virtual no-contest.

The LJP ploy to make a dent in the Muslim votes by fielding Sikandar Jamal will not work as Muslims are solidly behind Singh, claims Gautam.

Regarding Jitendra Prasad Yadav of Samajwadi Party, he says his presence in the fray would have little impact as yadavs would vote en bloc for the Congress at the call of RJD president Lalu Prasad.

Mohammad Azad of Mahespur-Ghanshyamchak panchayat also echoes similar views. "Muslims will vote for Singh as the LJP nominee is an outsider and nobody knows the Samajwadi Party candidate," Azad claimed.

He was more critical of JD-U candidate, Ajay Mandal, who was recently enlarged on bail. Mandal had polled 14,662 votes in the last elections as an independent.

"People will vote for a person who has become synonymous with development and not for Mandal, who has half a dozen criminal cases pending against him," Azad said.

Arvind Akela, chairman of Sanhaula Mukhiya Association, more explicit in criticising the JD-U candidate. Cases relating to smuggling of silk yarn and theft of electric wire are still pending against him, Akela alleged.

Jai Narain Das, a dalit of Khankita village too was confident of Singh's victory as LJP president Ramvilas Paswan's call for a Muslim chief minister had failed to have any impact on Dalits and Muslims of Kahalgaon.

Another factor expected to work in favour of the Congress stalwart is that Vaidehi Devi, polling 14,590 votes as an independent and Shriniwas Mandal of CPI-M securing 10,620 votes in the February elections, are stumping for Singh.

But for Singh his status is proving a hurdle in his bid for an 8th term as expectations from adhyakshaji are too high.

"Given the fact that Sadanand Singh was the speaker of the Bihar assembly and a minister several times, he could have done more for the constituency than he actually did," says Sunil Kumar, a betel shop owner.

Apart from the expectations, the fact that Congress was a partner in the RJD-led coalition government and an electoral ally of Lalu, can go against him.

"Can the Congress escape responsibility for the thriving kidnapping industry? The party saved Lalu-Rabri raj when NDA wanted to impose President Rule characterised by non-development," Satish Sinha, a local schoolteacher says.

In previous elections, polarisation of Singh's own Kurmi caste, Muslims and Yadavs had helped him emerge victorious.

The caste polarisation is expected to be on similar lines in these elections too notwithstanding the NDA projecting Nitish Kumar, a kurmi, as its chief ministerial candidate.

A split in Muslim and other backward caste votes, particularly those of Gangotas, who are in sizeable number, due to presence of Sikandar Jamal of the LJP and Ajay Mandal of JD-U may, however, upset the Congress applecart.

Both Nitish Kumar and Ramvilas Paswan are working overtime to ensure the victory of their candidates.

Road connectivity and floods are the two major problems, which have by and large not been addressed.

People are unhappy with Singh for not reconstructing the bridge over the Kowa River, which was washed away a few years ago.

Though a pontoon bridge exists for maintaining the road link between Kahalgaon and Bhagalpur, Singh's failure to get a permanent bridge constructed has not got down well with voters.

Over 2.47 lakh voters would decide the fate of Singh and four other candidates-- Ajay Mandal of JD-U, Sikandar Jamal (LJP), Jitendra Prasad Yadav (Samajwadi Party) and Vikas Mandal (BSP) on October 26.

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