When Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed his first public meeting in Patna on February 3, the man tasked with drawing big crowds to the venue was Anant Singh, the criminal-turned-Independent MLA from Mokama, known by the nickname ‘Chhote Sarkar’.
After the rally, the Congress’s Bihar campaign committee chief Akhilesh Singh profusely thanked Anant, who, having proven his worth, demanded the Lok Sabha ticket from Munger. The Congress obliged a month later by fielding Anant’s wife Neelam Devi. For the party, it was a win-winensuring the muscleman politician’s support without risking the taint of fielding a bahubali.
Bahubalis have been synonymous with electioneering in Bihar, and the 2019 Lok Sabha battle is no different. Neelam Devi is pitted against Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, a minister in the Nitish Kumar government. He has the backing of bahubali Surajbhan Singh, a murder case convict. Surajbhan’s younger brother Chandan Kumar is the Lok Janshakti Party candidate from Nawada and is considered more of a proxy for him. His main opponent, Vibha Devi of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), is also seen as a dummy for husband Raj Ballabh Yadav, a former RJD legislator now ineligible to contest elections following conviction last year in a rape case.
A similar contest is in the offing in Siwan, where the RJD has again fielded Mohammad Shahabuddin’s wife Hena Shahab while the Janata Dal (United) has given a ticket to Kavita Singh, the wife of bahubali Ajay Singh.