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Once battleground of heavyweights, Hajipur, Muzaffarpur ready for polls sans big names

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: May 5, 2019  | 16:00 IST

By Bijay Kumar Singh Hajipur, May 5 (PTI) Candidates for the Muzaffarpur and adjoining Hajipur Lok Sabha seats have a tough task of winning the hearts of the electorate who, for long, were used to political heavyweights George Fernandes and Ram Vilas Paswan as nominees. Paswan, the LJP chief and eight-time MP from Hajipur, has decided to opt out of the race to the Lok Sabha and fielded his brother Pashupati Kumar Paras who is facing a tough fight from Grand Alliance candidate Shiv Chandra Ram. The BJP has given the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) five seats in Bihar, one in Uttar Pradesh and promised Paswan a Rajya Sabha berth. As for Muzaffarpur, known for its luscious litchi, represented five times by Fernandes, both the BJP and the grand alliance have fielded candidates from the Nishad community. BJP MP Ajay Nishad, seeking a reelection from the seat, faces Raj Bhushan Chaudhary fielded by the Mukesh Sahni-led Vikassheel Insaan Party, which is seeking to assume leadership of the community. Ajay Nishad is son of former Union minister Jai Narain Prasad Nishad, who had won the Muzaffarpur seat four times. Prashant Gautam, a first-time voter and a student of Muzaffarpur's prestigious L S College, however, said he won't vote on the basis of caste and claimed that the opposition "has no face". In 2014, Ajay Nishad had defeated Akhilesh Prasad Singh of the Congress by more than two lakh votes. Muzaffarpur is one of the three seats allotted to the VIP as part of the seat-sharing arrangement of the grand alliance comprising the RJD, Congress, RLSP, HAM and VIP. On the other hand, RJD's Hajipur candidate Ram is campaigning hard to wrest the high-profile reserved seat from the LJP. "Ram Vilas Paswan has done a lot for the development of this region. But since Paras is contesting this time, we will have to think whom to vote for," said Ramnath Rai, a banana farmer from Terasia village of Hajipur. But for some, Prime Minister Narendra Modiís image and the recent Balakot airstrikes have had a strong appeal. Paswan had defeated Congressí Sanjeev Prasad Toni in 2014 polling 4,55,652 of the total of 9,04,753 votes cast. The JD(U) had won the seat in the 2009 elections. In both the constituencies, a cross-section of voters in the business community and workers of micro, small and medium enterprises asserted that their businesses were hit due to demonetisation and GST, but argue they have no option but to vote for the NDA. Central government welfare schemes like Ujjawala, providing free cooking gas connection to poor households, PM Awas Yojana, construction of toilets and roads have worked well with the voters in both urban and rural areas of Muzaffarpur and Hajipur. However, associate professor at Patliputra University, Patna, Vijay Kumar Yadavendu believes that the contest is tight in the two constituencies given that the grand alliance works hard on the ground. Polling in the two seats will be held in the fifth phase on Monday. PTI BKS CS NSD TIR TIR

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