Lady Bahubalis of Bihar : Dummy candidates getting out of spouses' shadows?

Lady Bahubalis of Bihar : Dummy candidates getting out of spouses

Hina Shahab, Kavita Singh and Neelam Singh are charting their way through the very masculine Bihar political-scape of Election 2019 but the big...

Hina Shahab, Kavita Singh and Neelam Singh are charting their way through the very masculine Bihar political-scape of Election 2019 but the big question is – did their parties choose them as dummy candidates for their muscle-flexing husbands?

Shahab, the Rashtriya Janata Dal's contestant in Siwan, is the wife of four-term (1996 to 2004) MP Shahabuddin, convicted in multiple murder cases and debarred from contesting any election.

Her opponent in Siwan, which votes on May 12, is Kavita Singh, a two-time MLA who is the Janata Dal(United) candidate and the wife of local muscleman Ajay Singh.

He has been denied a ticket because of the many criminal cases against him.

The third in the lineup is Neelam Singh who is making her electoral debut as the Congress' contestant from the Munger Lok Sabha seat.

Her husband Anant Singh faces at least 18 cases, including of murder, kidnapping and extortion.

Shahab is banking on her connect with the locals in the absence of her husband while Kavita Singh is confident the "Modi wave" will bring her votes and Neelam Singh is sure her husband's goodwill will be her trump card.

"Saaheb (Shahabuddin) is not with me for the last 15 years. I feel his absence every moment.

When I see the love of the people for him and for me, I feel proud to be the daughter and daughter-in-law of Siwan," 46-year-old Shahab told PTI over the phone. Shahab lost the previous two elections and is hoping she will make it through to the Lok Sabha this time.

It was not easy for the burqa clad Shahab to step out from the confines of her home to the heat and dust of campaigning, but she said she has come a long way.

"I was not prepared to enter politics in 2009. I could not express myself but I had decided in 2014 that I will fight, no matter whether I win or lose.

I was there for the people of Siwan in their happiness and sorrows," Shahab said. "I entered politics in response to the people's demand and their love for Saaheb.

We did not have any politician in our family. I joined politics to continue the good work of my husband. I don't believe in caste and religion-based politics," she added.

It is the first time in Siwan's history that two women are pitted against each other in a Lok Sabha election. While Kavita Singh, 33, promises to maintain law and order in Siwan, Shahab's priority is employment and women's security.

"I don't talk about national issues. I don't seek votes in the name of martyrs. I want employment, education, health facilities and safety for women," she said.

Kavita Singh, who has her husband Ajay campaigning for her, is equally confident the people of Siwan will back her. Behind every successful woman is a man, she said.

"In Siwan, the contest is not between two women but between the UPA and the NDA. I am confident that on the basis of good work done by Modiji at the centre and Nitish ji at the state level, people will vote for me.

The country wants Modiji back as PM and Siwan is no exception," she said. Kavita Singh entered politics in 2011 when her mother-in-law and two-term JD (U) legislator from Daraundha Jagmato Devi passed away.

Ajay Singh was denied a ticket by the party due to his criminal record. He placed a matrimony ad in the newspaper for a suitable educated girl who could contest the by-poll. Kavita Singh was finally selected and won the election, said locals.

"The Modi government has a woman foreign minister, a woman defence minister and a woman Lok Sabha speaker. He is working hard for women empowerment and people respect that.

I am sure that I will be the first ever female MP from Siwan," Kavita Singh added. Shahbuddin won Siwan constituency from 1996 to 2004. After his conviction, Shahab lost twice to his bête noire Om Prakash Yadav.

In Munger, which voted on April 29, first-timer Neelam Singh, 48, does not consider herself a dummy candidate and said she asked for votes on the issue of lack of development in the constituency.

"The opposition does not have any issue so they are calling me a dummy candidate. I am Anant ji's 'ardhangini' (better half ) and people will definitely vote for me on the basis of the goodwill he enjoys.

There is no Modi wave here. People want change," she said. Neelam Singh rues the lack of development in Munger and blamed the state government for it.

"We have two ministers in the state cabinet from Munger but the constituency was given step-motherly treatment. All the industries have been relocated from here and administration is autocratic. My husband and I are fighting for the people," she said.

She is up against is Rajiv Ranjan alias Lallan Singh, a minister in Bihar's Nitish Kumar government. In the previous Lok Sabha election, Veena Devi of Lok Janshakti Party defeated then MP Lallan Singh of JD (U). The votes for the seven-phase elections will be counted on May 23.

Mona Parthsarathi

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