IIT-educated real estate baron in Bihar poll fray (Election Special)

Jehanabad, April 16: Real estate baron Anil Kumar Sharma, an IITian who is contesting from Bihar’s Jehanabad parliamentary constituency, is the richest candidate in the state with assets worth a whopping Rs.850 crore.

Sharma, chairman and managing director of the Amrapali Group, is a candidate of the ruling Janata Dal (United) from Jehanabad, considered to be a lawless land till a decade ago. It witnessed caste massacres in a battle of supremacy between Maoists and Ranvir Sena, an upper caste militia.

“It is the first time a candidate is seeking support and vote for overall development. He (Sharma) is not talking anything else other than development and reminding the people of peace and social harmony,” said Ganesh Kumar Singh, who runs a small shop on the Arwal-Jehanabad road.

Jehanabad goes to the polls Thursday.

Sharma, a civil engineer from IIT Kharagpur, has in just over a month visited villages, hamlets and small semi-urban pockets in Jehanabad, about 50 km from Patna.

Some people near the Jehanabad railway station recalled that a business tycoon Mahendra Prasad, popularly known as ‘King Mahender’ won the seat in 1980. Mahendra, a bhumihar, owns a big medicine manufacturing company, and is currently a JD-U Rajya Sabha MP.

But polarization on castes line is visible here.

“…people in this backward areas are affected by some genuine issues that were ignored…”, said Amrender Kumar, a contractual school teacher at Makhdumpur.

In this drought-prone district, traditional rivals, bhumihars, landed upper caste, and Yadavs, powerful backward caste, continue to be vocal supporters of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad.

“Bhumihars are by and large supporting Modi as they have been backing the BJP since early 90s and Yadavs are still loyal to Lalu. Both are trying to influence others to follow them. But it is a difficult task,” said Chandan Singh, a farmer.

The bhumihars also appear divided with two bhumihar candidates – Anil Sharma and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) candidate Arun Kumar in the fray against RJD candidate Surendra Prasad Yadav.

RLSP has joined hands with the BJP and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan.

Modi had held a rally in support of Kumar last week.

Inderjeet Prssad, who belongs to an extreme backward caste, praised Nitish Kumar’s development work during his eight and a half years of rule.

“There is a peace and social harmony in Jehanabad. Road connectivity changed the rural scenario…All these were a dream before Nitish Kumar came to power. For us JD-U candidate is best and suitable if we want development,” said Prasad, a resident of Kurtha.

JD-U is confident of support of EBCs and Mahadalits along with other backward castes and Muslims like elsewhere.

“Anil Sharma will certainly get support of his caste men, who see in him a symbol of a man who has made a difference and is development-oriented,” a JD-U worker close to former party MP Jagdish Sharma said.

Jagdish Sharma, the strongman of Ghosi, an assembly constituency, is supporting and campaigning for Anil Sharma.

Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Surendra Prasad Yadav, a former MP from Jehanabad, has turned it into a triangular contest.

He is likely to get Yadav votes, besides those of Muslims.

(Imran Khan can be contacted imran.k@ians.in)