Kumar, who is looking to retain her seat for the third consecutive term, will bank on the votes of backward castes, Muslims and Dalits.

BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, while addressing an election rally here last month, claimed that Kumar had little time to work for her constituency and it was neglected and under-developed.

Though 11 candidates are in the fray in this SC reserved seat, which is going to polls on April 10, Kumar's fight is likely to be mainly with BJP's Cheddi Paswan, who had defeated her twice in 1989 and 1991 as a Janata Dal candidate. Paswan joined BJP recently.

After losing to Paswan, Kumar did not contest from Sasaram and instead fought from Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. She returned to Sasaram in 2004 when she won it for the first time. She retained the seat in 2009.

There are over 2.5 lakh Dalit voters out of total 15 lakh electors in Sasaram, which has six assembly constituencies, three each in Rohtas district and neighbouring Kaimur district. While Sasaram, Chenari (reserved) and Karghar fall in Rohtas, Bhabua, Mohania (reserved SC) and Chainpur are in Kaimur district.

Kumar's father and Dalit icon Babu Jagjivan Ram won from this seat eight times between 1952-1984.

Development is likely to be a major issue this time.

Dwarka Singh Kharwar, former head of Peepardih panchayat, says there are no roads in villages and people have to walk almost 20-km to come to market.  

Head of Garh panchayat, Moti Uroan, says people in areas in Kaimur mountain range still long for drinking water and irrigation despite having a high-profile representative.

Sri Niwas Tiwari of Sawan Dehri village says Kumar could have done a lot of work for the constituency, but people are deprived of even the basic facilities here.

Besides Dalits, Kumar is also eyeing votes of backward Kushwaha caste, which has substantial presence in the constituency. Her husband Manjul Kumar is from the Kushwaha community, locally known as Koeris. The constituency has about 1.5 lakh Muslims voters.

Kumar, who is also banking on Congress' tie-up with Lalu Prasad's RJD, dismisses any 'Modi wave', saying it exists only in the media.

Voters, however, won't see a family fight as was expected following the rejection of Kumar's niece Medhavi Kirti's nomination during scrutiny after there was some confusion in her filing of papers following which BSP fielded Baleshwar Bharti as its candidate.

In 2009, Kumar had defeated BJP's Muni Lal by 42,954 votes.

Sasaram and Kisanganj are the two seats Congress had managed to win in Bihar in the 2009 polls when NDA under Nitish Kumar had won 32 of 40 seats in the state.

Nitish Kumar's JD-U has fielded IAS officer-turned- politician KP Ramaiah who though hails from Andhra Pradesh. He has served in the state as Chairman of Mahadalit Commission constituted by Nitish to launch separate welfare programmes for a section of the poorest among Dalit castes.

Besides votes of Mahadalits, Ramaiah is also banking on the support of Kurmi caste of Nitish Kumar.

(JPN/Agencies)

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