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Bahubali Wives Charge Up Bihar Contest

May 08, 2024 11:02 IST

The RJD has fielded six women candidates, some of them are wives of bahubalis.

IMAGE: Heena Sahab (in blue scarf), the late gangster Mohammad Shahabuddin's wife, is an Independent candidate from the Siwan parliamentary constituency. Photograph: Kind courtesy Heena Sahab/Facebook

There have been few elections in Bihar that haven't seen bahubalis, as musclemen politicians are called, jostling for political dominance. However, this time, it's the wives of convicted or deceased bahubalis who have thrown, or have been made to throw, their hats in the contest.

From deceased gangster-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin's wife Heena Sahab to Lovely Anand, the wife of former MP Anand Mohan, who was released last year after 17 years in jail, several spouses of bahubalis have been fielded by almost all major political parties in Bihar.

A few bahubali-turned-politicians, including Pappu Yadav and Munna Shukla are also in the fray.

Anita Kumari Mahto, the newlywed wife of convicted gangster Ashok Mahto, is the Mahagathbandhan candidate from Munger, fielded by Lalu Yadav's RJD.

Ashok, a kurmi, which is an agrarian OBC caste, was the main accused in the Apsar massacre in which 12 people belonging to landed upper castes were killed in Nawada district, the killing of five-time Congress MLA and two-time MP Rajo Singh (in 2005), and the Nawada jailbreak incident of 2001.

The Web series Khakee is based on his life.

After being in jail for 17 years, Ashok was released in November 2023. He was keen to try his luck in politics but was informed that he cannot contest elections as per the law since he was convicted for over two years.

This is when Lalu Yadav reportedly badvised 55-year-old Ashok to get married and field his wife instead. Hence, he married 45-year-old Anita in March 2024, and the RJD chief blessed the newlyweds with a poll ticket.

Lalu picked up Anita to challenge Lallan Singh, the incumbent MP from Munger, who belongs to the powerful Bhumihar caste. He is also a former JD-U president and considered close to Nitish Kumar.

"Lalu has given a ticket to Ashok's wife to polarise backward caste votes. Ashok is popularly known as a champion of backward castes and enjoys an image of a strongman who challenged the dominance of the upper castes in Nawada, Sheikhpura, Munger and Lakhisarai districts," a Bihar politics watcher said.

IMAGE: Lovely Anand, former MP Anand Mohan's wife, is contesting the Sheohar seat as a JD-U candidate.

Anand Mohan's wife Lovely Anand is the JD-U candidate in Sheohar.

Anand Mohan was convicted for inciting a mob that lynched then Gopalganj district magistrate G Krishnaiah in 1994. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Patna high court.

Lovely, who is also a former MP, is banking on Modi and Nitish Kumar's popularity, besides the support of her Rajput caste and the EBCs (extremely backward castes) to win the seat.

Incumbent MP from Sheohar Rama Devi was denied a ticket by the Bharatiya Janata Party this time as the seat went to the JD-U as part of the seat-sharing deal of the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar.

Rama Devi is the wife of deceased gangster Brij Bihari Prasad, who was killed by his rivals nearly two decades ago.

Notably, the BJP, which is contesting 17 of the 40 seats in Bihar, has not fielded a single woman candidate. The RJD has fielded six women candidates, some of them are wives of bahubalis.

The JD-U has fielded Vijay Lakshmi, the wife of bahubali Ramesh Kushwaha, from Siwan. Lakshmi got a JD-U ticket days after she joined the party along with her husband, who quit the Rashtriya Lok Morcha of former Union minister Upendar Kushwaha, an NDA ally.

IMAGE: Pappu Yadav at a road show before filing his nomination from the Purnea constituency. Photograph: ANI Photo

Mohammad Shahabuddin's wife Heena Shahab is an Independent candidate from Siwan, a constituency that was once a stronghold of her late husband.

Heena reportedly refused Lalu's offer to contest as an RJD candidate. She had earlier alleged that she and her family was ignored by the RJD.

Heena has unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls thrice from Siwan after 'Saheb' -- as she used to call her husband -- was jailed in 2005.

She has been campaigning in rural Siwan and described it as her home and the land of her husband, who died on May 1, 2021, days after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

A former RJD MP from Siwan, Shahabuddin was imprisoned in Delhi's Tihar jail, where he was serving a life sentence for murder.

The RJD has fielded senior party leader and former Bihar assembly speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary from Siwan.

The party has also fielded Bima Bharti from Purnea. Five-time MLA Bharti is the wife of gangster Awadhesh Mandal, who is facing a dozen serious criminal cases.

The RJD's candidate in Jamui, a reserve seat, is Archana Ravidas, the wife of local bahubali Mukesh Yadav.

Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, a former Lok Sabha member who was acquitted in the murder of a Communist Party of India-Marxist leader, is contesting the Purnea seat as an Independent.

Incumbent Purnea MP Santosh Kushwaha of JD-U is the NDA nominee.

Pappu Yadav won the Purnea seat thrice -- in 1991, 1996 and 1999 -- and was sent to the Lok Sabha once from Madhepura in 2004.

Another bahubali in the fray is Munna Shukla, who has been fielded by the RJD from Vaishali and faces over a dozen serious criminal cases.

The RJD tops the list of candidates with a criminal background.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/