Monday, September 14, 2009

Diverse Colours of Bihar by-elections

Counting for the seven seats in Bihar will be taken up on September 17 as by-elections for some other seats are to be held in Bihar on September 15. In Bihar, elections were held in Bochaha (SC), Aurai, Kalyanpur, Warisnagar (SC), Ramgarh, Chainpur and Chenari (SC).

On September 15, Assembly by-elections will be held for the Bagaha (SC), Nautan, Begusarai, Tribeniganj, Simri–Bakhtiarpur, Araria, Dhuraiya (SC), Munger, Phulwari (SC), Ghosi and Bodh Gaya (SC) seats.

Of the 15 candidates facing murder and attempt to murder cases in all, 13 are contesting from Bihar alone.

In fact, the highest number of candidates with criminal background - 7 — is in the fray from Begusarai in Bihar followed by six such candidates in Nautan, also in Bihar.

Congress is going it alone in the assembly by-elections to 18 seats in Bihar keeping an equidistant from both RJD-LJP alliance and the NDA. Congress is attempting to revive itself in Bihar under the tutelage of Jagdish Tytler and Sachin Pilot.

Congress has lined up several national leaders for campaigning in the 18 seats in two phases - on September 10 and 15.

While Lalu Prasad-led RJD is contesting 13 seats, Ramvilas Paswan's LJP has fielded nominees on five seats in the state.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has accused the Congress ministers at the Centre of misusing official position for political purposes. "The ministers are misusing official position for the sake of politics," he said.

Referring to Union Rural Development Minister C P Joshi's charge that the state failed to utilise Rs 8,000 crore fund allocated by the Centre under various development schemes, Nitish said, "I have no complaint against Joshi...But political platform should not be used for the purpose of electoral politics...It is improper to use official position at the time of elections.

This war of words between a minority government led by Congress at the Centre and a majority government in the state reveals the nature of mandate which is generally not discussed these days.

Nitish Kumar’s decision not to field the kin of elected party MPs in the bypolls is being appreciated by the rank and file of the JD(U). This has upset at least one of the newly-elected JD(U) MPs from Gopalganj (SC), Purnamasi Ram, who has fielded his son Ajay Kumar Ram on the RJD symbol from Bagaha (SC). The Bagaha seat was earlier represented by Purnamasi Ram, who on being elected from the Gopalganj (SC) Lok Sabha constituency, relinquished his Assembly seat.

State Congress president Anil Kumar Sharma has criticized JD(U)'s General Secretary, Shivanand Tiwari for holding the Congress responsible for the bifurcation of Bihar. He said that it was the BJP and power-hungry leaders of the RJD who were responsible for it. He said that the RJD had joined hands with the JMM because it ran a minority government in Bihar and it was instrumental in passing a resolution by the Bihar assembly recommending creation of Jharkhand.

Political parties have fielded several tainted candidates for the assembly by-elections in Bihar. Analysis of the data gathered for a National Election Watch study shows that Bihar also leads others in the final tally, with 36 per cent (45 out of 123) of its candidates for the September 10 and 15 assembly byelections facing criminal charges.

The study of the affidavits of 202 of the 329 contestants in the fray in all states has revealed 64 candidates with self-declared criminal cases pending against them.

Indian National Congress has given maximum tickets to tainted candidates for the coming byelections. Of its 31 contestants, 13 (42 per cent) are facing criminal charges. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD comes a close second, having given tickets to 9 tainted persons out of 12 it had fielded.

BJP and JDU have fielded five tainted candidates each, making up 29.41 per cent and 45.45 per cent of the total.

On the front of fielding candidates with serious criminal charges, Congress leads the pack with six, followed by RJD and JDU at 4 each; CPI at 3, NCP, Lok Janshakti Party and CPM at two each.

Earlier, Hulas Pandey, younger brother of JD (U) suspended MLA and strong man Sunil Pandey, surrendered to the Patna police on 24 July, 2009 on the Bihar legislature premises soon after he took his oath.

A team of policemen was already deputed there to arrest him. Soon after courting arrest, in a reply to a question by the media that whom he considered his leader, he said it was known to every one ‘who was my leader.’ Hulas has been wanted in dozens of criminal cases including murder and kidnapping for ransom.

His name figured in a murder related case in 2003 in which he was made prime accused and the police believed Sunil as a conspirator along with him in the case.

Soon after he came out of the House, police took him in custody and produced him before the court concerned which remanded him to judicial custody.

Hulas is a named accused in the kidnapping of Patna-based neurosurgeon Ramesh Chandra in 2004 and for kidnapping a doctor from Muzaffarpur in north Bihar.

Hulas has become a member of the state legislative council after winning the recently concluded council polls. He is an Independent member. He defeated JDU's official candidate Bisheshar Ojha (a close relative of Munni Devi Ojha, Shahpur's BJP MLA)in the fray. It has been speculated that this BJP MLA supported the candidature of Hulas Pandey.