The Mokama assembly segment, about 100 km from Bihar capital Patna, promises an interesting battle with two contrasting personalities as the main contenders, one of them the sitting MLA for whom things have come a full circle in a span of five years. Rajiv Lochan Singh, a frail, soft-spoken 66-year-old who has been associated with the 'Sangh Parivar' for decades and is making his electoral debut as a candidate of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), looks like an unlikely challenger to Anant Kumar Singh, seeking re-election for the fifth consecutive time.
Tall and powerfully built with a handlebar moustache that adds to the fierceness of his countenance, 59-year-old Singh who does not mind uttering expletives in public, is in the fray as a candidate of the RJD, with which his late elder brother Dilip Singh had been associated and served as a member of the cabinet headed by Rabri Devi.
However, unlike the elder brother, Anant Singh known by the nickname Chhote Sarkar here had started off as a candidate of the JD(U) in 2005 when the party, in alliance with the BJP, brought an end to the RJD-Congress rule.
Till recently, Singh had been a reviled figure for the RJD and its supremo Lalu Prasad had made atrocities allegedly committed at his behest against a 'Yadav ka beta' a poll issue in the 2015 assembly elections.
Prasad would cite Singhs arrest, which was followed by the mercurial MLA severing ties with the JD(U) and entering the fray as an Independent, as a testimony to the clout he then enjoyed with Nitish Kumar, his arch-rival with whom he had forged an alliance.
Prasad's son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav had frowned upon the alliance helmed by the RJD accommodating "bad elements" in the Lok Sabha elections last year when the Congress fielded Singh's wife from Munger where she lost to JD(U)'s Lalan Singh.
However, the RJD and Singh have made peace despite troubled past equations and when he recently came out to file nominations, being in jail under the stringent UAPA following the recovery of an AK-47 rifle, ammunition and explosives from his house, he spoke with his usual bluntness to profess loyalty towards his latest benefactors.
"After the elections, Tejashwi Yadav will be the CM and Nitish Kumar will go to jail," Singh had said and the young RJD leader reciprocated the gesture a few days later when he visited Mokama and urged his supporters to vote for 'Chhote Sarkar'.
With so much drama surrounding the sitting MLA, it is not surprising that Rajiv Lochan Singh is not hogging much limelight, but the wiry JD(U) candidate points out that he had been a wrestler in his youth and dismisses notions of his being a pushover.
"It may be my first election but I have been a political worker for 40 years. My father used to play host to Atal Bihari Vajpayee whenever he graced Mokama with a visit. Nitish Kumar has also known me for many years," he said.
Notably, Mokama has been close to the heart of the JD(U) chief since the days he used to be a member of Parliament. Nitish Kumar mostly contested from the now- abolished Barh Lok Sabha seat under which Mokama used to fall.
When he visited Mokama for electioneering recently, the chief minister gave clear hints that he has burnt his bridges with 'Chhote Sarkar', once considered his protege, as he went hammer and tongs at the opposition for giving patronage to "bahubalis".
Mokama is famous for its massive 'taal' (strip of wetland) flanked on either side by the rivers Ganges and Kiul, which yields a rich harvest of lentils year after year thereby earning the sobriquet 'daal kaa katora' and Chirag Paswan's LJP, emerging as the X factor in the elections, has done here what it is doing best muddying the political waters. The party has fielded Suresh Singh Nishad, an OBC, from the seat which has since Independence never elected a non-Bhumihar.
It hopes to strike a chord with the underdogs by virtue of this departure from tradition, and also win over disgruntled Bhumihars, who might be averse to vote for "Chhote Sarkar fallen into Lalu's lap" and wary of reposing trust in a "weak" JD(U) candidate.
Mokama goes to the polls in the first phase of elections on October 28.
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)
First Published: IST