Dhattha (Samastipur): Sociologist Shaibal Gupta believes Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won’t click in Bihar for there has been least urbanization in the state where the die is still cast(e). The sight of Saroj Kumar Sinha addressing an impromptu meeting in the backdrop of cattle and cowdung in this village, 200km from Patna where Shaibal lives, defies the academic’s argument.
Saroj belongs to Baikunthpur Brahanda village in Samastipur’s Ujiarpur block. He claims he is a BSc topper of LNMU and did LLM from Patna University in 2009. “I was preparing for lower judicial services exams when Anna Hazare happened and I joined the bandwagon,” he told TOI as he got down from the pillion of the mobike, being driven by another AAP supporter, to quench thirst from a tap by the roadside. The mobike has a flag containing Arvind Kejriwal’s face tied with its front suspension.
A motley crowd of people gathers around Saroj. They nod their heads as the articulate young man rattles off names of different scams and speaks of plunder of thousands of crores by politicians. “You see, people understand things. They just did not have an option. Now they have Kejriwal,” Saroj explained to this reporter.
AAP’s Samastipur candidate Ganesh Paswan is least likely to win. But ask Saroj how many votes Paswan will get, and he gives a reply that sounded like a complaint against the media: More than the media’s calculations.
This correspondent also came across AAP’s Begusarai candidate Dr Sunil Kumar seeking votes with folded hands from the buyers and the shopkeepers at Khodawanpur haat, 40km from Begusarai town. The amiable, kurta-pyjama clad orthopaedic surgeon in his late 50s was accompanied by 30-40 men and women, all wearing party caps and carrying brooms.
One of them Abhinav said, “We will get at least 50,000 votes.” A former AISF national secretary who recently joined Kejriwal & Company, he hastened to add this election, at least in these parts of the country, “we are preparing for 2019”.
A vote share of 50,000 will perhaps not be enough to save the candidate’s security deposit even if the voter turnout is around 50% as has been the trend in Bihar’s other constituencies so far. One has to poll one-sixth of the polled votes to escape forfeiting the Rs 25,000 deposited at the time of filing nomination papers for LS election.
But 50,000 in a constituency calculates to more than 6% of the polled votes if the turnout is 50% of the 14 to 16 lakh voters in each Bihar constituency. “That’s what we are eyeing this election to get recognized as a national party,” an AAP leader from Delhi said about the party’s poll prospects in Bihar.
A party is recognized as a national party when it secures at least 6% of the polled votes in any four or more states in the Lok Sabha or assembly election; and wins at least four LS seats from any state or states. Or, it wins at least 2% seats in the LS; that is, 11 seats in the House of 543 seats, from at least three different states. Reports from Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka suggest AAP might fulfil the eligibility criterion to be recognized as a national party. The way AAP story is unfolding in pockets – rural or urban, Bihar would also have perhaps contributed to the party’s bid for national status had it fielded strong candidates from the state’s 40 LS constituencies.
But even AAP’s staunchest supporters agree many of its candidates from Bihar are not visible. Take, for instance, Kundan Singh from Pataliputra. Pitted against heavyweights like sitting MP Ranjan Yadav of the JD (U), Ramkripal Yadav of the BJP and Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti of the RJD, Singh’s only claim to fame is the tragedy in which his son Rahul Raj was shot by the police in Mumbai when he was protesting against Bihar bashing by the Thackerays. “That’s a big issue which will see Singh sail through,” AAP leader Manish Sisodia said during his Patna visit, much to the amusement of many.
Kishori Das, a PUCL veteran based in Patna, has been fielded from Sitamarhi. Raj Mangal Prasad, an East Champaran native awarded for RTI activism in Delhi, is trying his luck from Vaishali where no one knows him. The list of listless MP aspirants of AAP in Bihar is long, indeed.