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Key Contests: George Fernandes vs Bhagwan L Sahni

MANDATE 2004/ LS CONSTITUENCY WATCH - Bihar

Sidhartha  |  Muzaffarpur 

If you were to ask for the election office in the city, chances are you may not get directions easily. But ask for the "election office" and people will direct you to the first floor building in a narrow lane near commercial hub of Sutapatti.
Though the defence minister and the JD(U)-nominee in the coming elections has had little time to campaign in his constituency the of his return has gone down well with the electorate.
"It's like the return of Ram from vanvas. He had done so much to create employment in this area. Now that all those industrial units are on the verge of closure he will come back an revive them," says Bhim Sen, a middle-aged shopkeeper.
Fernandes' campaign managers say that even the younger generation of voters who have not seen the Emergency are going to vote for the National Democratic Alliance convener for the same reason.
"Look at what he has done in Nalanda. The ordnance factory is a huge investment and is going to create largescale employment. By electing a national leader we will only ensure development in this city," adds physician Sanjay Kumar.
During his earlier stints from Muzaffarpur in 1977, 1980, 1989 and 1991, Fernandes is credited with getting a thermal power plant in Kanti (now in neighbouring Vaishali), an Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd unit, a Bharat Wagons unit and the Bela Industrial Area in his constituency.
While some are happy because there has been very little development during the Rashtriya Janta Dal's (RJD) rule in the state, the others will opt for Fernandes for want of other strong candidates.
The candidate Bhagwan Lal Sahni's campaign is in virtual disarray. Not only is he running three hours behind schedule or the Tata Sumo that he uses for campaigning does not have diesel, his branding as a former Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporter has not gone down too well with the vote bank.
Ask him his agenda for the constituency and he launches on a verbal offensive against Fernandes. "It is an election which will seal the fate of an outsider forever. He has no link with local issues and the people have realised that," he says.
The caste equations are also in favour Fernandes as he has the support of the upper castes, who account for nearly half the 12,00,000 voters. His campaign managers also claim that the NDA candidate has made a dent in the Muslim and Yadav vote bank too though Muslims are unhappy because sitting MP Jai Prakash Nishad was denied a ticket.
But they say there are no questions about the outcome of the elections in this constituency. "We are only looking at the victory margin," says Vibhash Kumar, the president of the Mahanagar unit of the JD (U).

First Published: Fri, April 23 2004. 00:00 IST
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