Sunday, November 21, 2010

The last test in Naxal hotbed

Santosh Singh Posted online: Sat Nov 20 2010, 12:27 hrs

Gaya, Aurangabad, Sasaram : As Bihar gears up for the sixth and last phase of elections to 26 Assembly seats on Saturday in the Naxal-infested districts of Gaya, Aurangabad, Rohtas, Kaimur and Buxar, the ruling NDA looks set to marginally improve its previous tally of 13 seats.

The opposition RJD-LJP is expected to put up a tough fight in Sasaram, Gaya and Aurangabad, playing on the anti-incumbency factor against some NDA candidates, including Bihar Assembly Speaker Udai Narain Choudhary and ministers Chhedi Paswan and Awadhesh Narain Singh.

As 21 of the 26 seats are Naxal-hit, the Election Commission apprehends a low voter turnout and has heavily deployed central forces to ensure free and fair elections. The Maoists have called for a poll boycott at several places, including Imaganj (Gaya) from where Speaker Choudhary faces a tough opponent in RJD’s Roshan Kumar. A total of 426 candidates, including 43 women, are in the fray in this round. Besides Choudhary, other heavyweights in the fray are RJD leader Shakil Ahmed Khan from Sherghati against JD-U’s Vinod Yadav, JD-U’s Chhedi Paswan against RJD’s Niranjan Ram in Mohania, former Union minister Kanti Singh (Nokha) against BJP’s sitting Rameshwar Prasad, Minister Awadesh Narain Singh against RJD’s Iliyas Hussain in Dehri and Anil Kumar against RJD’s Bagi Kumar Verma.

This round assumes significance because of senior RJD leader and Buxar MP Jagdanand Singh making the Ramgarh seat a prestige battle. His son Sudhakar Singh is contesting for the BJP against the RJD’s Ambika Yadav.

Singh would tell voters: “Sudhakar is my biological son but Ambika is my political heir”. The JD-U’s Karakat MP Mahabali Singh is also facing embarrassment with his son Dharmendra contesting as the RJD nominee from Chainpur. Similar is the case with JD-U Aurangabad MP Sushil Singh whose elder brother Sunil Singh is contesting from Aurangabad as RJD nominee. The NDA, which won just one seat in Buxar, looks for big gains in the district with JD-S candidate and sitting Dumraon MLA Dadan Pahalwan facing a tough fight from JD-U’s Dawood Ali. Rohtas, Kaimur, Aurangabad and Gaya, however, may produce mixed results with a slight tilt towards the NDA.

The biggest worry, however, is Naxal threat. Though poll percentage in the last five phases averaged 52 per cent, this phase would be real test if the “Nitish factor” has been working well in Naxal-hit areas.

Nitish Kumar, who recently travelled across all poll-bound districts, said: “Good voter turnout alone is point to ponder in this phase. Crowd presence at several meetings had been good indicator though.”

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