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Meira Kumar in trouble in Sasaram
NAVTAN KUMAR  Sasaram, Bihar | 29th Mar 2014

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar

ok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is finding it difficult to explain to the voters of Bihar's Sasaram, who sent her to the Lok Sabha in 2009, and 2004, the lack of development in the constituency. Kumar, who is the Congress candidate from Sasaram for the 2014 elections as well, is banking heavily on the legacy of her father, former Deputy Prime Minister, the late Jagjivan Ram. He represented Sasaram throughout his political life. A stalwart of the Dalit community, Jagjivan Ram first won the seat in 1952 and represented it continuously until 1984, for eight terms. Meira Kumar has been representing the constituency since 2004.

Kumar is pitted against BJP's Chhedi Paswan and a former IAS officer, K.P. Ramaiah (Janata Dal United). Paswan won from the Mohania Assembly constituency. Soon after Jagjivan Ram's death, he contested the Sasaram seat in 1989 and defeated Meira Kumar. In the 1991 elections, he once again defeated her. Ramaiah, on the other hand, is contesting for the first time. He has been the principal secretary of Bihar's SC/ST Welfare Department and secretary of the Mahadalit Commission. Polling in Sasaram will be held on 10 April.

The Karamchat dam, or the Durgavati Reservoir Project, is a major issue in the area. The foundation stone for the project was laid in 1976 by Jagjivan Ram, who was a Union minister at the time. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 25.3 crore, but Rs 700 crore has been spent on it so far. As things stand today, it is yet to be completed.

Said Chhedi Paswan: "She has done nothing for the constituency. Karamchat dam is yet to see the light of day. Besides, she made no efforts to revive the closed Dalima Nagar paper factory, Japla cement factory and Amjhor fertilizer factory. The mining of limestone has been stopped in Chutia leading to unemployment and affecting more than four lakh people." Paswan claimed to have about 1.5 lakh "personal votes". "Add the Modi wave to it, and I am confident I will win the seat," he said.

However, Meira Kumar claimed that work on Karamchat dam was almost complete and it would become operational soon. "The long wait will be over soon," she said. On why she was confident of winning the seat a third time, she said, "This is my ninth election and I am confident that the people of Sasaram will support me this time as well. My father had strong emotional attachment with the people of Sasaram and I am carrying on his legacy."

Congress workers believe it would have been more difficult for Meira Kumar had Medhavi Kirti, the granddaughter of Jagjivan Ram, contested the elections. Kirti had filed her nomination papers on behalf of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However, her papers were rejected as she failed to deposit the party symbol. In the 2009 elections, the BSP had polled around 1 lakh votes in Sasaram. The BSP symbol, however, went to a local party leader, Baleshwar Ram. Kirti accused Meira Kumar of hatching a conspiracy to stop her from contesting. "I did not get the symbol despite assurance from Mayawati. I was cheated by local BSP leaders, as a result I could not get the required papers. I also could not file my nomination as the candidate of Congress (Jagjivan), the party founded by my Dadaji. The whole thing was manipulated. Meira Kumar is just using Babuji's (as Jagjivan Ram is remembered fondly) name. She has done nothing for the constituency," she said and added that she would decide her future course of action on Sunday.

Meira Kumar, however, said that the people of Sasaram loved her and that she did not have any time to think about these issues.

While admitting that there was anti-incumbency against her, she asserted, "I have always believed in working. I have always tried my best to improve Sasaram, which has seen development in the last 10 years.

More than 1,000 km road was built in the last five years. I got started a direct train, Garib Rath from Sasaram to Delhi. Because of my efforts, there are direct trains to Patna."

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