WILL Mokama assembly constituency wriggle out of the grip of ‘bahubalis’, or strongmen, this election? That’s the question facing the people of this constituency in Patna district in the wake of sitting MLA Anant Singh quitting the ruling JD (U) following his arrest in a case related to abduction of a contractor at Bihta some time ago.
Anant was widely seen to enjoy CM Nitish Kumar’s strong support till he was arrested and jailed at RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s behest. The charges against him also included the murder of a Yadav youth near Barh, a subdivisional HQ town in the district. Lalu himself made this claim at the ‘Swabhiman’ rally at Patna on August 30.
It was Anant whose men had surreptitiously bought Lalu’s horse at the Sonepur fair, which the MLA had proudly displayed to the media at his residence years ago. Such was his clout that his hotel was constructed despite protests from the then minister Parveen Amanullah. Despite the orders of the Patna Municipal Corporation court, his mall came up in flagrant violation of building norms.
Much to the chagrin of many, strongmen have continued to rule the roost in this constituency for the last 25 years. “First it was Dilip Singh of the RJD (1990 and 1995), then Surajbhan Singh (2000) and then Anant (2005 and 2010),” said Upendra Sharma, a retired professor of chemistry at B N M College, Barahiya.
Amaresh Narayan Sharma, a businessman, traces the dominance of ‘bahubalis’ to the keenness of political parties to field ‘winnable’ candidates; people who could win with the help of money and muscle power, if need be.
“The then Congress leader Shyam Sundar Singh ‘Dheeraj’ would use Dilip Singh to capture booths. After a while, Dilip nurtured political ambitions himself, got elected on the RJD ticket and rose to become a minister. In 2000, history-sheeter Surajbhan won as an Independent but was vanquished in the 2005 assembly polls by Anant,” said Amaresh.
Upendra Sharma said there is sympathy for Anant for the way he was ‘used’ and then thrown out for political convenience. His men are already moving around in small groups to tap this sympathy for Anant, who is likely to contest as an Independent. Sources said an LJP MP has assured some people that he would try to get the party ticket for Anant though the chances of Surajbhan’s aide Lallan Singh’s wife being fielded by the LJP are rated high.
Ram Sharan Singh, a retired executive engineer of Bihar State Electricity Board, said Anant enjoys a “no-nonsense” image. “To those who visit him for some work, he is frank to say what is possible and what is not. His ‘dabang’ image also gets many works done by officials on his intervention.”
Not that there is dearth of “clean” candidates. Manoj Moldiyar is said to be a contender from the BJP. From the JD (U), Mikki Singh of Aunta village is an aspirant. State JD (U) spokesman and MLC Neeraj Kumar is also not averse to joining the fray from Mokama. “If the party so says, I am ready to take up this challenge,” he told TOI. Incidentally, there is also talk of the grand alliance of JD (U)-RJD-Congress fielding Dheeraj, whose current political affiliation is not very clear.