Mathihani/Teghra (Begusarai/Bihar): Kanhaiya Kumar is really a Kanhaiya (the most loved one), as his name suggest. He is loved and supported by people from all sections here, breaking caste, class, religion and community barriers.
“This is something rare,” says Santosh Kumar, a youth in sleepy Manipa village.
“Kanhaiya ko sab ka saath aur samarthan mil raha hai. Sabhi uske liye vote karenge” (he is getting support from all), Mohd Mumtaz, a young farmer in Saidpur village under Mathihani block.
Both Santosh and Mumtaz had supported and voted different party candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But this time they are supporting Kanhaiya, former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president, who is a Communist Party of India candidate from the Begusarai Lok Sabha seat in Bihar.
Dozens of people, including youth, old men, women and even children, standing in groups at different places on the dusty rough road of Saidpur, a Muslim- dominated village, echoed one view -- they will back Kanhaiya this time.
“I will vote for Kanhaiya”, said Khurshida Khatoon, a middle-aged. She had voted for RJD in 2014.
Several women and young girls standing behind curtains of their doors and windows, said the same thing.
Bhusan Yadav and Nandan Yadav, both youth, see Kanhaiya as a leader whom they support. ”Kanhaiya talks about issues that affect us, like farmers’ distress, unemployment, education and health, not caste, religion and Pakistan. We have decided to vote for him this time”, they said. Both had voted for RJD last time.
However, the elderly and middle-aged are reluctant to shift their loyalty from the lantern, RJD’s election symbol.
This is probably the first time in last two decades that a clear crack has appeared in RJD’s much talked about social support base of Muslim-Yadav, locally known as MY, due to Kanhaiya, who symbolises a counter challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national level.
“Muslims are openly supporting Kanhaiya. Go and visit any village in Mathihani, Baliya to Teghra blocks in Begusarai. I along with most of my co-villagers will vote for Kanhaiya, who is fighting for the rights of oppressed people in the country” said Abdul Qadir.
Qadir claims.a major chunk of Muslims in villages such as Lalpur and Rampur, situated not far away from Saidpur, are vocal in their support to Kanhaiya.
A few kilometres away in Shankarpur Tola of Bakhadda village, Yogendra Das, a government school teacher, said “Kanhaiya is our candidate and we will vote for him. He has revived hope.” Das, a CPI members party cadres in villages, who were not very active, have got energised after his candidature.
In the same village, Pratima Devi, a young woman said Kanhaiya is our first choice in polls.
During three-and-half hour journey on Kanhaiya campaign trail in the dusty and difficult terrain of Diara (riverine belt) of Begusarai, it became clear that he is known to all. People standing on roadside in dozens of backward and under-developed villages requested him to stop for few minutes, youths and the elderly wanted to garland him and shake hands with him. But whenever he got out of his vehicle, he met people with folded hands and reminded that these polls in Begusarai were a fight between Modi and ‘We, the People.’
Clad in cotton shirt and slippers, Kanhaiya has a direct connect with villagers and interacts with them in local dialect.
At Noorpur village under Teghra block, Zohaib Sulema said Kanhaiya has support from all. “It may surprise an outsider, but fact is that Kanhaiya is getting support from all sections of people. He will get votes from all castes, communities and religions. All social barriers will break on April 29 when Begusarai goes to polls”.
In the heart of Begusarai town, A K Sharma, a reputed physician, is confident that the powerful landed upper caste Bhumihars, with largest chunk of population in the district, will vote for Kanhaiya. He admitted that Bhumihars are known for their loyalty and support to BJP since early 1990s after Lalu Prasad became Bihar chief minister and started playing Mandal politics by consolidating backward castes, Muslims and dalits.
Though Kanhaiya also belongs to the Bhumihar community despite the fact that his family background is poor, he is not seen as their natural voice in view of his Left-liberal image and a face fighting for oppressed people. But Sharma, a known CPI cadre here, has a different view.
"Bhumihars are angry and will not support Union Minister and BJP candidate Giriraj Singh, a Bhumihar, known as dabang (aggressive). Giriraj is not a real representative of Bhumihars, his supporters are mostly power seekers and lumpens”, he said.
“Kanhaiya is the voice of marginalised, deprived, poorest of the poor and people in distress. He is getting spontaneous support from all. Kanhaiya is a new experiment as he is talking more about the Constitution and democracy” Sharma said.
Mohd Amanat, a resident of Mirganj near Patel Chowk, said it was for the first time that other than CPI cadres among Bhumihars, this caste was witnessing a split of votes in favour of Kanhaiya. ”Like Muslims, Bhumihar votes are also splitting here,” he said.
Amanat, who runs readymade garments shop at a marker near the district CPI office, told NewsClick that there was a clear division in loyal voters of BJP and RJD in favour of Kanhaiya. ”Never before has such a thing happened here,” he added.
Phulena Rai of Dhabauli village, about 7 km from Begusarai, said: “We will vote Kanhaiya, no one else”. Rai, a Kurmi, the community of chief minister Nitish Kuma, said
One thing is certain, Kanhaiya’s presence in the fray has made Begusarai a hot seat, where he is facing old horses like Union Minister and BJP candidate Giriraj Singh. "My fight is to defeat communal and fascist forces in the country," he said.
Singh is a controversial leader, known for his vocal championship of Hindutva politics.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan has not supported Kanhaiya, and has fielded Tanweer Hassan, who has hardly made his presence felt so far.
Begusarai will go to polls on April 29 in the fourth of seven phases polls.