Former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) and one of the prime accused in the sedition case pertaining to the commemoration of terrorist  Mohammed Afzal Guru, in the varsity campus, Kanhaiya Kumar is now the chief challenger to BJP stalwart and Bhumihar leader Giriraj Singh on the Begusarai seat in the 2019 polls.

The controversial student leader is being fielded by the Communist Party of India (CPI) on a seat that both the candidates have reasons to pin their hopes on.  

No support for Kanhaiya 

While earlier it was rumoured that the Congress-RJD would support Kumar on the seat, insiders in JDU said that RJD supremo Lalu Yadav poured cold water on the plan. The insiders claimed that Yadav will not support Kumar as he sees him as a future challenge and threat to the leadership of his son Tejashwi Yadav, who is now the de facto chief of the party. 

Also read: JNU sedition case: Delhi Police cracks the whip against Kanhaiya Kumar, others for anti-India slogans

Yadav junior has emerged as the uncontested leader of the traditional Yadav vote bank of his father.

Moreover, the seat has fallen in the kitty of the RJD in the alliance with the Congress. The RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha has already come on record to say that the alliance would support a CPI (ML) candidate who would contest on an RJD ticket, rather than Kumar.

Why BJP chose Giriraj

The BJP fielded Singh from Begusarai after shifting him from Nawada, that he currently represents. The logic was that Begusarai would be a comfortable seat for him given that 35% of the electorate are from the dominant Bhumihar caste.

Singh is largely seen as a leader of the Bhumihars in the state and is largely pandering to that factor. He was, however, not happy while being shifted out of Nawada.

Interestingly, Kumar too comes from the same community. Begusarai, anyway, is a former stronghold of the left, also called the ‘Leningrad of Bihar’. 
It was here that the CPI was founded by Chandra Shekhar Singh, the son of the then Congress minister Ram Charitra Singh, also a Bhumihar.

The left history of the seat sits well with Kumar, while his caste affiliation could help him further in the competition. 

The Bhumihar factor is central to the election of Begusarai, so much so, that even earlier it was represented by Bhola Singh, yet another Bhumihar. The BJP leader died in October 2018. 

According to ground reports gathered by MyNation, the Bhumihar community is not very happy with the BJP’s ticket distribution in Bihar. The caste rivalry between Bhumihars and Rajputs being central to the political landscape of the state, the former are unhappy over the smaller proportion of candidates given ticket by the saffron party vis-à-vis Rajputs for the 2019 polls.

Conversely, Kumar is making moves to capitalise on this disillusionment among the community and wean them away from the BJP. Though the Bhumihars have been an ardent followers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have had a rather patchy political equation with either BJP ally and Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) or the BJP’s state unit in the state.