Bhagalpur, Oct 7: It’s BJP-versus-BJP in Bhagalpur, and this may once again prove lucky for the Congress.
The mass of leaders and activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party here are up in arms against the party’s official candidate Arijit Shashwat, son of BJP MP Ashwini Choubey. Almost en masse, they are backing Vijay Prasad Sah, the Bhagalpur Mahanagar unit BJP president who sought but didn’t get the party ticket for the Bihar assembly elections. He is now an independent candidate.
And if BJP sources are to be believed, he has the support of the party’s local unit, making it an official-BJP-versus-unofficial-BJP clash. The beneficiary of this internecine war is expected to be Ajeet Sharma of the Congress who snatched the Bhagalpur seat from the BJP in a 2014 by-election. He is again the Congress candidate, also backed by the Janata Dal-United and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
The allotment of this seat to Choubey’s son has led to unprecedented resentment in the BJP, dimming its chances in the first phase of the Bihar voting on October 12. Most BJP workers are so angry that they are openly defying the party’s diktat to campaign for Shashwat. The BJP’s district vice president, Niranjan Sah, also filed his nomination as an independent to oppose Shashwat but withdrew in support of Sah.
BJP activists also accuse the party of promoting dynastic politics in Bhagalpur – a charge the BJP has often hurled at the Congress and others. Shashwat’s father Choubey had represented Bhagalpur in the Bihar assembly since 1995 before he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Buxar in 2014. When Choubey quit the assembly, the BJP lost the Bhagalpur seat to Congress’ Ajeet Sharma in 2014, allegedly due to internal bickering.
“After Choubeyji vacated this seat, the BJP nominated Nabhay Kumar Chowdhary for the 2014 by-election. But he was defeated by the powerful Brahmin lobby to clear the way for Shashwat,” Vijay Kumar, a staunch BJP supporter who runs a betel shop in Aadampur Chowk, told.
“This time we expected the ticket to go to a party worker but Choubey got it for his son. Party workers feel the BJP is becoming like the Congress, RJD and others by promoting dynastic politics and ignoring honest workers.” Worse, Choubey and former MP Shahnawaz Hussain are also at each other’s throats. Hussain, a former union minister and BJP’s national spokesperson, lost to RJD’s Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Choubey wanted to contest from Bhagalpur in 2014 but the BJP nominated Hussain from here, forcing Choubey to contest from Buxar. “Choubey was the reason behind Hussain’s defeat here,” a Hussain supporter told. The mood in the BJP camp was best summed up by Bijendra Kumar, associate professor at Marwari College in Bhagalpur. “Bhagalpur’s thinking is very clear this time,” Kumar told. “Even if Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes to Bhagalpur and seeks vote for Shashwat, he won’t win as long as Sah is in the fray.
“The politics of dynasty and infighting will cost the BJP a lot, and Sharma (of Congress) will prove lucky again like in 2014. There is a party within a party in the BJP here,” Kumar added. Amaresh Kumar Singh, a senior advocate, told that Sah had the covert support of Hussain. And as long as he was a candidate, the BJP wouldn’t win in Bhagalpur.
Choubey supporters admit to the problems but feel Shashwat will make it. “Choubeyji has done a mistake by initiating dynastic politics. But he will be able to manage the resentment,” Ashish Kumar Jha of Tilka Manjhi said.
Bhagalpur, which witnessed terrible communal riots in 1989, faced some tense moments a few days back. A dead pig was reportedly found at a place of worship. But officials were alert, and there was no violence. “When elections approach, such attempts are made to communalize the atmosphere but people and the administration here are alert,” businessman Raman Jha said.