The Hindu Business Line

Chhath Puja may mar first-phase of polling in Bihar

- TV JAYAN

The first phase of Lok Sabha polls in Bihar, starting April 11, clashes with Chaiti Chhath Puja, which may keep voters away from polling booths, said locals.

Four constituen­cies in South Bihar — Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Nawada — will face polls on the eve of Chhath puja, observed by most of the communitie­s in Bihar, irrespecti­ve of their social and economic background, said Ram Dinesh Singh, a resident of Gaya town.

“People prefer to visit temples on the eve of Chhath, often to those far from home. Dev mandir in Aurangabad is one such temple that attracts many devotees. Lakhs of people come here from neighbouri­ng districts to pay obeisance. This may affect the turnout,” he said.

Kishore Singh, a 25-year-old voter from Nawada constituen­cy, said if the choice is between Chhath Puja and casting vote, he would choose the former. All four seats, set to face polls on April 11, are currently represente­d in Parliament by the BJP or its allies. But only two of the sitting National Democratic Alliance (NDA) MPs have been fielded from their respective constituen­cies, as the BJP has decided to vacate Gaya and Nawada constituen­cy for its alliance partner the Janata Dal (United), despite murmurs of protest from the sitting MPs and their followers.

Chirag Paswan, the sitting MP and Cabinet Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s son, is seeking re-election from Jamui, while the BJP has fielded two-time MP Sushil Singh from the Rajput-dominated Aurangabad seat.

Gaya, a reserved seat, is contested by Hindustani Awam Morch-Secular (HAM) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is a part of the Opposition-led Grand Alliance. He as well as his rival Vijay Kumar Manjhi belong to Musahar community, which is dominant in the constituen­cy.

Jitan Ram Manjhi is a local leader and this is expected to brighten his chances. Besides, in 2015 Assembly elections, four out of six Assembly segments in the constituen­cy were won by partners in the Grand Alliance — three by the Rashtriya Janata Dal and one by the Congress. His party workers are also hopeful that disillusio­nment in the local BJP, which is strong here, as the ticket is denied to the two-term MP Hari Manjhi, would work in former Bihar chief minister’s favour.

Consolidat­ing votes

“If he can garner the majority of Muslim, Yadav and Mahadalit votes, he can win comfortabl­y,” said Sultan Islam, a wholesale fruit dealer near Bodhgaya.

In Nawada, the electionee­ring is yet to gain momentum. Apparently, the followers of union minister Giriraj Singh, who represente­d Nawada in the 15th Lok Sabha, are unhappy as he is not contesting from there this time.

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