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  5. Bahubali biwis face-off in Siwan to keep husbands' influence intact

Bahubali biwis face-off in Siwan to keep husbands' influence intact

Hina Sahab, wife of Mohammad Shahabuddin and Kavita Singh, wife of Ajay Singh are contesting against each other in Siwan to maintain 'prestige' and influence of their 'bahubali' husbands.  

Siwan Published on: May 09, 2019 19:53 IST
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Siwan is gangster Shahabuddin's stronghold. However, his influence is waning.

After unsuccessfully contesting twice, Hina Sahab, wife of jailed former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, is going all out to win from Bihar's Siwan constituency which was once an undisputed stronghold of her husband.

Wearing a traditional colourful 'hijab' to cover her head and to escape the scorching sun during campaigning, Hina (46) approaches people with folded hands as she moves from roads to narrow streets both in urban pockets and villages.

One thing is certain. Siwan is no more a fiefdom of Shahabuddin who is still called 'Saheb' by his supporters.

Over the years, Hina too has changed. She no longer covers her face with a veil. She has also learnt to be articulate, like a seasoned politician.

"She is happily facing the heat and dust of electoral politics," senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Awadh Bihari Choudhary said.

Unlike her husband Shahabuddin, a criminal-turned-politician known locally as 'Bahubali' who hardly worked hard to woo the voters as his very presence was enough to fetch him support, Hina -- a graduate and mother of two -- is meeting people, visiting villages and addressing election meetings.

Sensing that the battle is tough, Hina, an RJD candidate, is not taking any chances. After all, her main challenger is Kavita Singh (33), a Janata Dal-United (JD-U) candidate and wife of another 'Bahubali' Ajay Singh.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist's (CPI-ML) Amarnath Yadav is also in the race, making Siwan a triangular contest. 

Kavita is also a JD-U legislator from the Daraundha Assembly seat and is contesting her first Lok Sabha polls.

"For Hina, it is a prestige battle this time to prove her might in the absence of her powerful husband. She lost twice in 2009 and 2014," said Lal Babu, a small-time trader in Siwan.

Hina was forced into electoral politics in 2009 after her husband was barred from contesting the elections following his conviction in a murder case. Similarly, Ajay Singh married Kavita, a post-graduate, on the condition that she would join politics.

Soon after her marriage, Kavita was fielded from Daraundha by the JD-U to contest the Assembly by-elections following the death of Ajay's mother Jagmato Devi. She won and was again re-elected in 2015.

Kavita was lucky when Siwan, a Bharatiya Janata Party seat, went to the JD-U under a seat sharing formula. The JD-U decided to field her in place of her husband Ajay Singh, who is facing several criminal cases and has a tainted image. 

Hina is hopeful of getting the support of favourable caste equations as the RJD-led Grand Alliance has been joined by the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahani, son of Mallah.

Last time, the division of votes was sharp in the opposition camp and that helped the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to win. But in this election, caste equations are different.

According to election watchers, if the RJD-led alliance's traditional social support base of Muslims and Yadavs gains support from the Kushwahas, an agrarian caste, Mallahs and Dalits, it will give the NDA candidate a tough time.

According to some media reports, Om Prakash Yadav, the sitting BJP MP, is unhappy after being denied ticket by the party and is not active in campaigning for the JD-U candidate.

The total number of voters in Siwan is 17.9 lakh. The constituency has six Assembly segments.

Siwan will go to the polls on May 12.

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