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The Hindu
The Hindu
Amarnath Tewary

As Rajput candidate, will get support in Sheohar naturally: Lovely Anand

A year since the release of her husband, Bihar’s strongman leader Anand Mohan Singh, Lovely Anand is in the electoral fray from Sheohar seat on a Janata Dal (United) ticket as a National Democratic Alliance candidate. Mr. Singh, who was in jail for 16 years, was released when JD(U) supremo and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar tweaked the State prison code to expedite his remission in case of IAS officer G. Krishnaiah’s murder. In the midst of the electoral fray, Ms. Anand took the opportunity to defend her husband by asserting that he was not a “bahubali” (potentate) but a “kalambali” (penman)

“It is the media which has given the term bahubali for my husband,” she told The Hindu before embarking on her electoral campaign on April 19. “Had my husband been born during British period, he would have been a krantikari [revolutionary],” Ms. Anand, who had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2015 Assembly elections unsuccessfully from Sheohar, claimed.

Mr. Singh, a native of Saharsa district, some 195 kms from Sheohar - the smallest districts of Bihar after Sheikhpura - was found guilty of inciting a mob that had stoned, assaulted, and finally gunned down the then Gopalganj District Magistrate G. Krishnaiah in Muzaffarpur in December 1994. Mr. Singh was condemned to death by the lower court in 2007. However, his sentence was later brought down to a life term by the Patna High Court in December 2008. Mr. Singh moved to the Supreme Court for further relief but the top court upheld the High Court’s verdict. In April 2023, however, Mr. Singh was released from jail after 16 years of incarceration after the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government amended the prison manual 2012, Rule 481 (1)(a) by removing the clause pertaining to “murder of a public servant on duty”. The State government’s action had triggered a massive backlash from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which at the time which was in the Opposition. Mr. Krishnaiah’s widow had also challenged the Bihar government’s move in the Supreme Court, where the case is still pending.

Married with Mr. Singh in 1991, Ms. Anand was once a Member of Parliament from Vaishali and twice a Member of Legislative Assembly from the Barh (Patna) and Nabinagar (Aurangabad) seats. The last three Lok Sabha elections were won by the BJP candidate Rama Devi. This time around the seat fell into the JD(U) quota under the NDA seat sharing arrangement, and Chief Minister Kumar extended a warm “spousal visa” to Ms. Anand to contest the election. It is likely that Mr. Kumar has his eye on the sizeable Rajput and also the substantial Vaishya voter base in the area.  

While serving his sentence in the Saharsa jail, Mr. Singh had taken to literary pursuits and written books like “Qaid Mein Azad Kalam (A Free Pen in Captivity), Swadhin Abhivyakti (Free Expressions) et al.

“He also wrote a story on the life of mountain man Dasrath Manjhi titled ‘Parwat-Purush-Dasrath’ which was included in the CBSE course book from Class VIII. His writings were placed alongside the stories by Hindi literary giants such as Premchand, Jaishankar, and Mahadevi Verma,” Ms. Anand says seated in her air-conditioned room in a shabby Sheohar hotel where her family is put up for the duration of the campaign.

Ms. Anand’s opponent is Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Ritu Jaiswal, who hails from the Vaishya community, and is likely to put up a strong challenge to Ms. Anand.

“There is no challenge. But I would rather not want to comment on others. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the biggest leader of the Vaishya community and Nitishji belongs to the Patel community. And since I am a Rajput, I will get their support naturally. So, where is the challenge?” she asks.

Both Ms. Anand and Ms. Jaiswal face the “outsiders” tag from Sheohar voters. Ms. Anand has her roots in Saharsa while Ms. Jaiswal belongs to the neighbouring Sitamarhi district.

“What interest would they have after winning the poll in Sheohar. Will they work for the development of Sheohar given that they do not have their roots here,” rues a group of voters at zero mile chowk, a thoroughfare in Sheohar.

A household in the Nayagaon village under Dumri Panchayat, which was visited by Ms. Anand on April 19, also expressed discontentment for her being “unapproachable and inaccessible”. An embarrassed Ms. Anand excused herself with a “busy schedule” alibi, while promising to be more “accessible” in the future.

The flood-prone Sheohar Lok Sabha constituency boasts 16 lakh voters, with a 25% Vaishya, 20% Extremely Backward Class, 20% SC & ST, 18% Muslim, and 17% upper caste (predominantly Rajput) voters. Of the six Assembly constituencies, the BJP has its sitting legislators on four seats (Madhuban, Dhaka, Chiraiya, and Riga) whereas the RJD has legislators in the twin constituencies of Belsand and Sheohar. However, the Sheohar MLA Chetan Anand has already switched his political loyalties to the NDA.

“Out of a total six, five assembly representatives are from NDA. So you can guess who is winning the elections here,” Ms. Anand bragged.

Sheohar votes in sixth phase on May 25.

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