For Bihar women candidates, husband’s muscle power could backfire

By Imran Khan, IANS,

Patna: They are the wives and widows of ‘bahubalis’ – as criminal-turned-politicians known for their muscle power are known in Bihar. But their political rivals are giving them sleepless nights ahead of the elections starting Thursday.

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Lovely Anand, Ranjeet Ranjan, Bima Bharti, Bima Bharti, Punam Devi, Lesi Singh, Annu Shukhla, Damyanti Devi, Guddi Devi and Munni Devi have two things in common. They are the spouses of bahubalis and are all contesting the polls.

Unfortunately for them – most of them are caught in tough triangular and multi-cornered contests.

“They are being challenged in their husbands’ strongholds as the political environment has changed,” Kanchal Bala, a woman social activist, told IANS.

She said their husbands’ bahubali tag puts them in a difficult situation because silent voters hardly support them. “People no longer follow the diktats of bahubalis,” Kanchal Bala said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist youth leader Gopal Prasad Sharma said that wives of criminals-turned-politicians were facing a tough task due to the presence of rivals with similar backgrounds as well as candidates with a clean image.

“Either they are facing candidates with criminal backgrounds as their rivals or, in some cases, they are in trouble due to rivals with a clean image,” Sharma said.

Many of the women are contesting elections as their husbands have been convicted and punished in the last five years. Some are in jail and have fielded their wives as they have been disallowed by courts to contest. The widows of notorious gangsters who were killed in gang war are also in the fray.

Congress candidate Lovely Anand, the wife of former MP Anand Mohan, a criminal-turned-politician who is in jail, is facing a difficult battle in Alamnagar constituency.

Pushpraj, a human rights worker, said people have been discarding criminals in politics. “People are fed up with their husbands and know that voting for them (women candidates) means voting for bahubalis.”

Lovely Anand is being challenged by the softspoken and suave Janata Dal-United (JD-U) nominee Narendra Narayan Yadav, known for his clean image. Yadav is the land reforms minister in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s government.

Lovely’s husband has now become her strength and weakness. Anand Mohan was convicted and awarded the death penalty for inciting a mob that lynched Gopalganj district magistrate G. Krishnaiyah in 1994. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the Patna High Court.

Lovely is hoping her caste men – Rajputs – will back her.

Another Congress candidate, Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of former MP and murder convict Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, is also fighting a tough battle in Bihariganj constituency in Madhepura district.

She is competing against main rival Renu Kumari Kushwaha, known to be close to Nitish Kumar, who has been camping in Madhepura to campaign in the Kosi river belt.

A former MP, Ranjeet Ranjan is a good orator and liked for her down to earth approach, But her husband Pappu Yadav’s criminal record may prove costly for her. She is relying on the support of Pappu’s castemen.

Bima Bharti, wife of Awadesh Mandal, is seeking re-election on JD-U ticket. She is taking on Shankar Singh of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in Rupauli in Purnea district. Bharti’s husband Mandal and Singh are considered symbols of terror in the region.

Punam Devi, wife of criminal-turned-politician Ranvir Yadav, is seeking re-election from Khagaria constituency in Khagaria district. Her main rival is Sushila Devi Yadav of the LJP.

According to Anish Ankur, a theatre activist, the wives and widows of convicted criminal politicians and gangsters are unpopular. “There are few takers for them. This election will prove that bahubalis hardly matter.”

But still many are taking the plunge.

Former legislator Lesi Singh, wife of slain ganglord Butan Singh, is contesting from Dhamdaha constituency against sitting Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) legislator Dilip Yadav, who wields considerable muscle power.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Damyanti Devi, the wife of notorious criminal Bhagir Yadav, is contesting in Narpatganj constituency.

Annu Shukhla, wife of JD-U legislator Munna Shukhla who is currently in jail in the murder of former Bihar minister Brijbihari Prasad, is the JD-U candidate from Lalganj constituency.

Elections to the 243-seat state assembly will be held in six phases, from Thursday and go on till Nov 20.