Among the stars of the CPI(ML)’s best ever show in Bihar elections in over three decades is Sandeep Saurav, a 33-year-old who fought his first ever assembly election from Paliganj near Patna – and won.
Mr Saurav’s vote tally in the election is double that of the Janata Dal United candidate and the incumbent MLA.
This has been a very good election for the Left parties in Bihar. Of the 29 seats contested by the Left parties – CPI, CPM and CPI(ML) – as part of the Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), they won 16 seat – a success rate of 55 per cent.
The CPI(ML) won 12 of 19 contested seats, a success rate of 63 per cent. In contrast, the larger party in the Grand Alliance, Congress, won only 19 in 70 seats that it contested, which is a success rate of 27 per sent.
In the last Bihar assembly election in 2015, the Left’s combined tally was just three seats.
“I started with student politics and am still part of student politics. I think people understood my vision about education and politics,” says Sandeep Saurav at his home in Maner town near Patna, surrounded by a handful of supporters.
“We used to start at 6 am and hold small village-level meetings. There is not a single village in Paliganj that I did not touch. We created zones and held meetings with young people. The CPI(ML) had three seats last time. We have had zero seats too. But we have always had public support in Bihar,” the newly-elected MLA said.
Another star performer for the Left parties is CPI(ML)’s Manoj Manzil, the son of brick kiln workers. He is now the MLA from Agiaon in Bihar’s Arrah district after polling 50,000 more votes than his closest rival from the JD(U).
In the 2015 assembly election in Paliganj’s Baali Pakar village, which has a large population of the extremely backward Mushahar caste, votes were split almost evenly between the BJP and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) candidates on the seat, and BJP MLA was voted to power then.
But this year, of the 1,420 votes polled there, 866 were for the CPI(ML) candidate, 297 for the JD(U) while a Lok Janshakti Party candidate got some 200 votes.
“We were not happy with Nitish ji. All we got is some Rs 400-Rs 500 in our bank accounts. Nothing else. So we gave our vote to a new person and we are now hoping he will do what he has promised. I hope he will help us with employment,” says Munia Devi, a homemaker, when asked why she voted for the Left.
Mukul Kumar, a 21-year-old first-time voter who had been pursuing BTech in Punjab before the lockdown, has a more exhaustive explanation. “Jai Vardhan Yadav (incumbent MLA) used to be with the RJD. He is now with the JDU. For five years I never saw his face. He never came in five years. This new MLA, he won on Tuesday and came to meet us on Wednesday. He also spoke in the campaign about employment. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Yogi (Adityanath) also came here. They kept on speaking about China and the Ram temple,” says Mr Kumar.