One of the most watched election battles in Bihar is in Begusarai, starring former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Union Minister Giriraj Singh. Or, going by the minister's own tagline: Giriraj Singh versus Giriraj Singh.
Kanhaiya Kumar, the joint Left candidate, is seen to be in a triangular contest with Giriraj Singh of the "Go-to-Pakistan" fame and RJD leader Tanvir Hasan.
The name "Kanhaiya Kumar" has not crossed Giriraj Singh's lips even once during his campaign. That's because he has orders from the top not to.
At every public meeting, Giriraj Singh has targeted the "tukde tukde gang" - the BJP's phrase for ex-JNU activists like Kanhaiya Kumar accused of raising anti-national slogans on campus -- but without taking names, he says: "In Begusarai, Giriraj Singh's fight is with Giriraj Singh."
BJP leaders say the party, after much discussion, decided that "regardless of any provocation by Kanhaiya Kumar", the campaign would not be reduced to a clash of personalities.
Some leaders managing the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's campaign in Bihar confirmed that Prime Minister Modi had conveyed to state party leaders to warn Giriraj Singh against taking Kanhaiya's name.
Sources say many leaders are aware that if it comes to a battle between personalities, Begusarai-born Kanhaiya Kumar can be hard to beat.
On Monday, at a meeting attended by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Giriraj Singh referred to him as "Pul Baba" and "Bridge Baba"; he credited Nitish Kumar with building a record number of bridges and roads in Bihar. He also praised PM Modi. Knowing Nitish Kumar's discomfiture with his communal image, Giriraj Singh promised he would work for communal harmony in the state.
But in all this, he firmly avoided naming Kanhaiya Kumar.
Giriraj Singh, who won in 2014 from Nawada, was moved kicking and screaming to Begusarai. The Nawada seat had been given to BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. Giriraj Singh went into a sulk for days and refused to budge from Delhi and campaign in Begusarai until he was persuaded to drop his tantrum. BJP president Amit Shah, known to be close to the minister, stepped in.
A controversial minister known to "order" critics of the BJP to "go to Pakistan" at the drop of a hat, Giriraj Singh has, at best, referred to his main rival as "traitor".
Amit Shah, addressing a rally today, was also careful not to take any name but referred to the CPI candidate as a "namuna (specimen)" and a member of the "tukde tukde gang" who should be sent back to Delhi.
"This is an insult to the people of Begusarai," responded Kanhaiya.
Begusarai will vote on April 29.
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