Patna: Elections have always been full of colour, hysterical campaigns and suspense in Bihar. However, one Lok Sabha seat that has drawn attention of the masses and the experts alike is Siwan. That’s not because it is the birthplace of India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad but because two gang-lords have fielded their wives in the poll fray to rule by proxy.
While former parliamentarian Mohammad Shahabuddin now lodged in high-security Tihar Jail has fielded his wife Heena Shahab, his rival Ajay Singh has fielded wife Kavita Singh in the poll fray.
Both the leaders have long criminal past and hence are disqualified from contesting elections which have prompted them to put their wives forward to gain control of power. Shahabuddin who represented the seat four times in the past faces more than 40 criminal cases as serious as murder, kidnapping, extortion and sedition whereas Singh is an accused in at least 30 cases of same nature.
The jumping into the poll fray by the wives of the gang-lords has, thus, very obviously infused life in the poll contest. At present, both the candidates can be seen taking rounds of villages after villages under the hot sun and knocking doors of the villagers to seek their votes. One can be seen moving in burqa (veil), the other is treading the streets in sari. Heena Shahab is contesting on Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ticket whereas Kavita Singh is trying her luck on the ticket of ruling Janata Dal United (JD-U) which is headed by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
In a way, the prestige of the two parties is on stake, rather than their husbands. Perhaps, that is the reason chief minister Kumar is actively campaigning for Kavita Singh while RJD’s lone star campaigner Tejashwi Yadav is sweating it out to ensure victory of Heena Shahab.
Yet another interesting fact is that quite like Heena whose husband is in jail, Tejashwi’s father Lalu Prasad too is lodged in jail in connection with three fodder scam cases. On the other hand, Kavita Singh’s husband Ajay Singh is out on bail and also getting the support of the chief minister, turning the contest very much interesting and it is to be seen whom the voters elect.
“I would make Siwan a golden bird in matter of education, health facility employment to the youth if the masses elect me,” says Heena Shahab who is banking on her housewife image in the absence of her husband. The criminal past of her husband, though, is said to be coming in way of her victory but the party tries to ward off this issue saying it is up to the court to decide who is right and wrong.
Kavita who is already a state lawmaker is banking on the image and development agenda of the chief minister as well Prime Minister Narendra Modi. What remains a matter of serious worry for her is that this seat has gone to the JD-U although it is currently held by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarian Om Prakash Yadav. The denial of ticket to Yadav, thus, has dampened the spirit of the BJP workers and cadres and it is to be seen how much enthusiasm they show towards the ally candidate Kavita Singh.
No less interesting is the entry of Kavita Singh in politics quite like the grant of ticket at the cost of many capable candidates. As such, Jagmato Devi had been winning Daraunda assembly seat which falls under the Siwan constituency for long but post her death in 2011, her son Ajay Singh staked claim for this seat and demanded party ticket which the chief minister refused owing to his criminal antecedents.
The chief minister though suggested him to field his wife from this seat but the problem for him was that he was unmarried then. With the date of elections announced and time for nomination filing running out fast, Singh hurriedly inserted advertisements in the local daily for his bride with weird clauses — the bride’s name should be on the voter list, she should possess voter identity card, should be at least 25 years old and preferably from a political family background.
At least 16 girls responded to the advertisement but Singh ultimately settled for Kavita Singh and eventually married her during the Pitripaksh, considered the most inauspicious period for the Hindus, due to political urgency. It was only then that Singh could be able to keep the JD-U ticket and also the seat with his family. Now, he wants to wield power in the political corridors of Delhi through his wife.