The Hindu (Mumbai)

Wives help bahubalis of Bihar maintain poll grip

- Amarnath Tewary

Having weathered allegation­s, criminal cases and even long prison stints, Bihar’s bahubalis (strongmen) are back in action in Bihar’s politics. Like previous elections, their wives are in the fray, but voters clearly understand who’s calling the shots.

Lovely Anand, wife of strongman Anand Mohan Singh; Bima Bharti, wife of Awadhesh Mandal; and Anita Mahto, wife of Ashok Mahto, are better known as Mrs. Bahubalis. Their husbands hold sway in their respective constituen­cies and beyond but cannot contest the poll directly owing to their criminal background and rules that prohibit convicts jailed for over two years from contesting elections “until six years after release”. This is not too different from mukhiapati­s (village head’s husband) in Bihar reigning supreme at village panchayats with their elected wives (mukhias) watching from the sidelines.

Recently, convict and dreaded strongman of Nawada, Lakhisarai and Sheikhpura areas during 1990s and early 2000s, Ashok Mahto, 55, married Ms. Anita Mahto, 46, in the inauspicio­us period of

Kharwas, just a day before she was given the ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election by Lalu Prasadled Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) . Ms. Anita Mahto will contest from the Munger seat against Janata Dal (United) national president and close associate of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh.

Ashok Mahto was released from jail in November last year after 17 years of imprisonme­nt, and his hurried marriage just before the election reminded voters of a similar marriage in 2011, again in an inauspicio­us month. Bahubali Ajay Singh tied the knot with Kavita Singh ahead of the byelection to the Daraunda Assembly constituen­cy necessitat­ed by the demise of Ajay Singh’s mother Jagmato Devi.

Similarly, RJD has fielded Ms. Bharti from the Purnia seat. Wife of Mandal, a feared don in Purnia and Kosi areas of north Bihar, Ms. Bharti will battle JD(U) candidate and sitting MP Santosh Kushwaha. Ms. Bharti has been a fivetime MLA from Rupauli under Purnia Lok Sabha constituen­cy and also Minister in the State Cabinet.

On the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) front, JD(U) is fielding Ms. Lovely Anand, wife of strongman Anand Mohan Singh, from Sheohar Lok Sabha seat. Ms. Lovely Anand had been an MP (1994) and MLA twice. Her husband, convicted for the murder of former Gopalganj District Magistrate G. Krishnaiah in December 1994, had been MP twice from Sheohar in 1996 and 1998.

 ?? PTI ?? Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with exMP Anand Mohan and former RJD leader Lovely Anand.
PTI Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with exMP Anand Mohan and former RJD leader Lovely Anand.

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