Patna: “Lalu Yadav zindabad, zindabad, zindabad…” “Tejashwi Yadav, zindabad…”
These slogans, echoing through the Vidyapati Marg area of Bankipur constituency in Patna, weren’t raised by Rashtriya Janata Dal workers, but by supporters of Congress candidate Luv Sinha, who was making his way through a colony seeking votes in the name of ‘badlaav’ (change).
Clad in the politician’s customary white kurta and garlands around his neck, Luv Sinha, son of actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha, exhorted the people to give him a chance.
He is taking on the might of Nitin Nabin, a three-time BJP MLA from Bankipur (earlier Patna West) whose father Nabin Kishore Prasad Sinha was also a multiple-time holder of the seat.
“Many leaders come and make false promises. But we are not among those who make false promises. Give us a chance, there should be change,” the 37-year-old Sinha told residents.
Many in the area refer to him as “Shatrughan Sinha ka beta”. But Luv told ThePrint that he would come out of his former MP father’s shadow and win the election.
“I am contesting elections for the first time, but have been working at the ground level since 2009,” he said, referring to his father’s Lok Sabha election victory for the BJP from Patna Sahib seat, of which Bankipur is a part. Sinha senior joined the Congress in 2019 after having been one of the BJP’s original ‘star’ members for three decades.
Luv Sinha also rubbished the allegations of nepotism and dynasty. “Nitin Nabin has been the MLA for three terms and before that it was his father, and they are levelling allegations of dynasty against me? It is laughable,” he said.
Kayastha factor and Covid precautions
More than 25 per cent of voters in Bankipur belong to the Kayastha community, as do the Sinha family and Nitin Nabin. The Congress is hoping to get the Kayastha vote and split the upper caste vote, but it’s not an easy task as Kayasthas are traditionally BJP voters.
“Winning or losing the election is not in my hands, the public will decide. You can see I have come to listen to the problems of the people. Unemployment has increased; about 46 per cent people in Bihar are unemployed. I want to bring about a change,” Luv said.
While the Congress candidate himself donned a mask as he went door to door, most of his supporters didn’t. In some instances, more than 30-40 people jostled for space and ended up sending social distancing for a toss.
But Luv Sinha responded to a question about this by directing it towards the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
“Of course it is scary, but you should ask the Centre who decided to hold the elections. More than myself, I’m scared for the supporters. No one is thinking about them,” he said.
Root of the problem in politics
In sharp contrast, Manish Barriarr, the son of a high court lawyer, an MBA from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, and a student at Oxford under the Organisation Leadership Programme, began his campaign outside Patna Medical College and Hospital with barely five supporters.
One of the five held a loudspeaker and microphone, the latter of which is his election symbol. “Jahan bhi dekhe mic chhaap, mohar lagaye wahin aap,” one of the team members chanted throughout.
Clad in a white shirt and blue jeans, Barriarr went from shop to shop, explaining his own vision of ‘badlaav’ to the people.
“Candidates have actually become photograph candidates. They don’t even bother to meet each of the voters. They don’t have the time. They prefer doing some meetings, getting pictures done, and that’s it. This is what politics has been reduced to. I want to change that. I want to bring back the old style of democracy where you listen to the people and work on their problems,” said Barriarr.
A former ‘A’-grade official of the Ministry of Commerce, Barriarr returned to Patna and started tutoring management aspirants, but decided to take a plunge into politics at the age of 44 as an Independent candidate. He also intends to launch his own political party with “like-minded” people.
When ThePrint asked him why he didn’t approach a political party for a ticket, he said: “None of the political parties have the kind of value system which I am looking for. For example, my entire campaign will not cost more than Rs 60,000-70,000. The pamphlet costs money to print, otherwise there is no other cost.
“The root of the problem in politics right now is the kind of funding people get, and then they start doing all the wrong things. If I join a party, it becomes the same thing. I want to establish my own party. I have a socialist bent of mind with a lot of focus on investments, because I understand that without industry and investment, one can’t grow.”
Another notable candidate contesting from the same seat is Pushpam Priya Choudhary, 33. The London School of Economics alumna and daughter of JD(U) leader Vinod Choudhary has launched her own party, called Plurals, for her electoral debut. However, when ThePrint approached her office, we were told she was away campaigning in Nawada, and would be back in Bankipur soon.
The Plurals party has fielded more than 25 candidates, while Pushpam Priya has also taken out two full-page advertisements and put up billboards in Patna since March.
She had told ThePrint earlier: “I am here to change the politics of Bihar. Powerful people have been pressurising our candidates to withdraw; some of didn’t turn up at last moment at the behest of criminals.”
But all these candidates are taking on someone who is not only confident of winning, but winning with a bigger margin — BJP’s Nitin Nabin.
“As far as work is concerned, I have issued a report card listing out all the work done by me, whether it is the LED street lights, water, resolving the water logging issue,” he said.
“Those who are accusing me of not being available to the people are the ones who have in fact parachuted candidates. If I wouldn’t have worked and delivered, people would not have supported me for three terms. My work speaks for itself.”