Imamganj: In an election where many top leaders of political parties are not in the fray, the battle between two Mahadalit heavyweights in this central Bihar constituency is turning out to be the most riveting duel in the state Assembly polls.
Riding high on his wider appeal among Mahadalits following his elevation and removal as the chief minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi has staked his reputation by deciding to take on JD(U) leader and Speaker of the outgoing Assembly Uday Narain Chaudhary in Imamganj. Chaudhary, the sitting MLA, has won the reserved constituency five times, four of them in a row.
Manjhi, the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) chief, is also contesting from Makhdumpur, another reserved seat, from where he had won last time.
Manjhi`s rival there is a little known RJD leader Subedar Das but it is his open feud with Chaudhary dating back to his tenure as the chief minister that has spiced up the contest in Imamganj, a naxal-affected constituency bordering Jharkhand, and having high concentration of Mahadalits.
Both seats are going to polls on October 16 in the second phase of the five-phase elections.
"I am here to slay the demon," the HAM leader had declared as he announced his candidature against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar`s confidante whom he had accused of working in a partisan manner as the Speaker by acting against JD(U) MLAs supporting him.
In his retort, Chaudhary had said he felt "fortunate" if he was a reason behind Manjhi`s decision to resign as the chief minister.
"Aar-paar ki ladai hai (It`s a do or die battle)," says Nisar Alam, a local trader.
HAM`s alliance with BJP has not come in the way of some Muslims like Alam to pitch for Manjhi, who is seen to have reached out to the minority community by giving tickets to four Muslims out of the 21 seats his party is contesting as one of the four NDA partners.