In Lok Sabha polls held since 1952, the CPI has managed only once, in 1967, to win from the seat.
New Delhi: Though partial industrialisation had helped the Left movement grow in Bihar’s Begusarai region, it never got translated into electoral success for Left-linked parties like the CPI. In consecutive Lok Sabha elections that have been held since 1952, the CPI managed only once, in 1967, to win from the seat.
Currently, the Begusarai Lok Sabha seat is held by Dr Bhola Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He defeated Tanveer Hasan by a margin of 58,000 votes. A Bhumihar and Muslim dominated constituency, Begusarai will vote in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha polls that will be held on 29 April.
Despite having a strong fan-following for the Left movement on the ground in Begusarai, according to the Election Commission’s report, Left-linked CPI managed to win from the constituency only once in 1967.
Prior to the CPI’s victory, the Begusarai constituency sent the Congress’ Mathura Prasad Mishra to the Lok Sabha thrice.
Even after 1967, Shyam Nandan Mishra of the Congress managed to win from this seat in 1971. However, Shyam Nandan Mishra later joined the Janata Party, but got re-elected from the same seat in the 1977 Lok Sabha polls.
The Lok Sabha election on the Begusarai seat has become interesting as the CPI has fielded Kanhaiya Kumar, a former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president from there.
Kanhaiya Kumar, who formally joined the CPI national council in April 2018, came into the limelight after his arrest in connection with an “anti-national sloganeering event” that was allegedly held on the JNU campus in 2016.
On the other hand, the BJP has fielded its firebrand leader and outgoing Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh from Begusarai. Singh is seen by many as an anti-Muslim face in the saffron party.
Both Giriraj Singh and Kanhaiya Kumar represent the majority Bhumihar caste.
The CPI had hoped that the RJD would not field any candidate from the Lok Sabha constituency to make Kanhaiya’s win certain, but on Friday, Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD announced Tanveer Hasan’s name as the RJD’s candidate. Hasan had lost to the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of 58,000 votes.
While the almost century-old CPI, which has reached the verge of political extinction, sees a chance of revival through Kanhaiya Kumar, the past records of the CPI’s performance reveal that the Begusarai seat is not going to be an easy win for the CPI. In the last Lok Sabha polls, which were a two-cornered contest, CPI’s candidate Rajendra Prasad Singh secured the third position with only 17.87% vote share and polled little less than 2 lakh votes in the constituency.
Asked about the reason behind the CPI’s failure in turning its support base into electoral success in Begusarai, Manindra Nath Thakur, a political analyst, told The Sunday Guardian: “One of the most educated districts of Bihar, Begusarai is partially industrialised and the Baruni thermal plant there has created a large chunk of working class in the region. Unlike the general practice, Left politics in Begusarai has been more of a kind of working class plus peasant politics. The upper caste (Bhumihar) dominated constituency witnessed the land reform movement run by Swami Shradhanand and this increased the Communist party’s fan following in the region and the party managed to win the Begusarai seat in 1967. But the moment Indian politics took a caste-based turn, the CPI failed to come good on the expectations of voters of this constituency.”
“Recently, I visited Begusarai twice and witnessed that a culture of activism and protests is still there and that can work in favour of CPI and its candidate Kanhaiya Kumar, but the constituency has a sizable population of Muslims and upper caste Bhumihars. The RJD has already fielded a Muslim candidate and that is going to create a situation of a three-cornered contest and thus prediction has become difficult,” Thakur said.
“I am in constant touch with Kanhaiya Kumar and have come to know that the youths in Begusarai have joined him in large numbers. He is eloquent and he has the potential of turning the existing culture of agitation and activism in his favour, but Giriraj Singh is a veteran leader and he knows the tricks of Indian politics; so there is no logic to underestimate his presence,” Thakur said.
Roshan Singh, an acquaintance of former MP of Begusarai, Rajo Singh, told The Sunday Guardian, “No doubt there is a support base for CPI in Begusarai, but caste and community factors are there. The Bhumihar and Rajput voters are more likely to support him. Also, entry of Giriraj Singh is going to polarise the voters in the constituency and that might go against Kanhaiya Kumar.”