India’s Youngest Candidate On The Last Day Of Her Campaign — Ground Report From Samastipur

Abhishek Kumar

May 12, 2024, 04:32 PM | Updated May 13, 2024, 03:46 PM IST

Shambhavi Choudhary of the LJP(RV) on the last day of campaigning in Samastipur, Bihar.
Shambhavi Choudhary of the LJP(RV) on the last day of campaigning in Samastipur, Bihar.
  • In the assembly segment of Kusheshwar Asthan of the Samastipur Parliamentary constituency, Shambhavi Choudhary is largely seen as a grounded and accessible leader.
  • Placed between two relatively more prosperous districts of Muzaffarpur and Begusarai, Samastipur is still looking for its deserved share of development and modernisation.

    Despite that the city has always been in the limelight for one reason or another.

    Politically, the Samastipur Lok Sabha seat has given Bharat Ratna Karpoori Thakur to the nation. On the other hand, it is also the place where the famous Rath Yatra of Lal Krishna Advani was stopped and he was arrested on the orders of Lalu Yadav.

    The Samastipur Lok Sabha seat has six assembly segments namely Kusheshwar Asthan, Hayaghat, Kalyanpur, Warisnagar, Samastipur and Rosera. Five of these six are held by National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

    In 2024, Samastipur is in the news for Shambhavi Choudhary, India’s youngest candidate for Member of Parliament (MP).

    She is 25 and is a post graduate from Delhi School of Economics. Shambhavi did her graduation from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University and is also pursuing her PhD from Magadh University.

    Swarajya observed her campaign on the last day to gauge her impact. The rationale behind doing it on the last day was understanding how much people have been able to connect with her and whether that will transform into votes or not.

    Shambhavi’s day starts quite early in the morning, a departure from regular politicians. Being a devout theist, she begins her morning with prayers before breakfast. On the day Swarajya was there, the breakfast included the famous north Indian sweetmeat, the jalebi.

    Even as she was finishing with her meal, people gathered outside her house with various requests and problems. This is colloquially referred to as ‘janata darbar’.

    People outside Shambhavi's house.
    People outside Shambhavi's house.

    “Madam (wife) is an Asha worker, I am here with her,” said a person present there. When this writer countered that Shambhavi is not an MP yet, he said, “she will help me as best as she can. If not, her father will surely help me”.

    Shambhavi’s father Ashok Choudhary is Cabinet Minister for the Building Construction Department in Bihar government.

    Apart from them, party workers were seen preparing for the final day of campaigning. Most of them seem to be in a hurry with demands for posters, banners, and party flags going high. Amidst this hustle and bustle, media persons arrive for various purposes — ranging from interviews to accompany her en route campaign. 

    Opening up about her interests, Shambhavi says that she has been an animal lover from her childhood. “When I used to get pocket money, whether in school or in college, I would spend it on stray animals,” said Shambhavi, explaining how despite being from a relatively affluent background, worldly leisure does not pull her attention.

    On her college days in Delhi and required skills to survive, she said it helped her a lot that she learnt to take complete ownership of herself from such an early age. “Managing debates, their preparations, along with doing everything ourselves make you become mature,” added Shambhavi.

    The day was specially important since it involved an itinerary of Chirag Paswan, her party chief doing a road show with her, beginning from historical Kusheshwar Asthan.

    Kusheshwar Asthan falls under the reserved assembly constituency with the same name. It is mainly famous for Baba Kusheshwar Nath Temple.

    Apart from it, the place is locally known for Ram Vilas Paswan, Chirag Paswan’s father and former Union minister and founder of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Chirag’s faction of the party is known as Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) (LJP(RV)).

    Though born in Shaharbanni village of Khagaria district, the senior Paswan is said to have spent his childhood here. Pointing towards a school, an old man claiming to be his classmate said, “here, here, he used to sit with us in the class and speak in a very hushed tone. Even when he was angry, his thet (raw) Maithili was so sweet that it never felt like he was angry”.

    The school is very close to the place where Chirag Paswan’s helicopter generally lands when visiting the place. Before landing, the helicopter takes a few rounds (parikrama) of Kusheshwar Nath Temple.

    Landing spot of helicopter.
    Landing spot of helicopter.

    Before going about her day, various women from nearby as well as other districts of Bihar came to meet Shambhavi. For a lot of them, the support that she is getting from her family has paved the way for them getting the same from their own.

    Shambhavi getting felicitated by women.
    Shambhavi getting felicitated by women.

    Anita Devi, a woman watching proceedings said, “after I told my husband about them, he also started to help me in daily chores. Now we both are breadwinners and handle our homes too. If I am outside, he cooks for me, if he is outside, I do it for him”.

    In one way, male members of the family — her father Ashok Choudhary, her father-in-law Kishore Kunal and her husband Saayan Kunal are bringing a silent social change in mindset. Saayan in fact takes care of campaign strategies and also participates in rallies and road shows.

    As her convoy departed, chants of ‘Shambhavi hai toh Sambhav Hai (if Shambhavi is there, it is possible)’ started to make rounds. It carried on as the convoy started to amalgamate in the city's bustling crowd. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, people were waiting to see a glimpse of ‘Shambhavi Didi’.

    Shambhavi is mostly called ‘Di’. Large part of the credit also goes to how she has gone from door-to-door for canvassing.

    Ready for departure.
    Ready for departure.

    “She is too down-to-earth and interacts with people in such a manner that no one can guess she is so educated. Normally, we see educated people living a sophisticated life and do not even talk to average folks like us. Here she is, shaking hands with them, sitting with them, talking to them, asking their whereabouts. What else do people want from their representative?” said Raj Kumar, the local person driving this writer to his destinations in Samastipur.

    Crossing multiple security check-points, the convoy finally reached Kusheshwar Asthan.

    Jammed roads with not an inch to move, LJP(RV) supporters on bikes, bicycles, cars, and even barefoot were seen all around it. The administration had to use its power to let the convoy move. 

    A glimpse of crowd at Kusheshwar Asthan.
    A glimpse of crowd at Kusheshwar Asthan.

    Shambhavi stopped here for a while. She met people and appealed to vote for her. 

    Amidst all this, we strolled out to gauge the sentiment of the constituency. One of the party workers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not particularly happy with his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner’s choice of candidate. He said that local BJP workers would have liked it better if there was a candidate who is a local from Samastipur.

    “Look there is no problem with Shambhavi Didi. She is very good, well-spoken and passionate. She has done well in developing a bond with people. However, it would be better, if there was a local candidate known to people” he added.

    Some nodded their head with this sentiment while others did not agree with it. For most of them, this election is not about that. This election is about seeing their favourite Chirag Paswan emerging victorious.

    Aree, Chirag Ji has given her a ticket. He is educated and modern, he won’t spoil his seat for a non-deserving candidate,” said a person going by the name Munnu.

    Apart from historical affinity towards Chirag and his father, locals also wish to see Khagaria-Kusheshwar Asthan rail lines getting constructed. It was a dream project of Ram Vilas Paswan.

    The 44 km railway line, if completed, will connect Kusheshwar Asthan to Khagaria, passing through Paswan’s village Saharabanni on the route. For people of Kusheshwar Asthan, it will boost tourism, in turn their lives and livelihoods.

    Many of them are hopeful that Shambhavi will help realise this dream.

    Meanwhile, Shambhavi was back on the road. Her convoy had shifted to High School ground — the road show was to begin from here. 

    On the ground, people were seen looking for her, only to find that her vehicle and herself were tough to trace. She was surrounded by hundreds of people wishing to just shake hands with her. Shambhavi had to sit on top of her vehicle. She interacted with them for quite some time in this manner.

    Bablu Kumar, a local, said that she will cruise through from here. “No one is even close to the dominance of the Paswan family here, its Chirag wave in Kusheshwar Asthan. “What about the whole Samastipur?” we asked. “Since she is new, people do not know much about her. Like the Chirag wave in Kusheshwar Asthan, in Samastipur, it is the Modi wave. Sahambhavi will get through,” added Bablu.

    Shankar Yadav, another person in the crowd, however, said that the impact of the Modi wave is losing momentum. He feels that PM Modi and Nitish Kumar are still feeding on the feel good factor generated by development done on the ruins of destruction done by Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the country and Bihar respectively.

    “This is the last time Sir. The promise of house, electricity and other basic facilities have been fulfilled, but not fully. Those who can pay bribes have their whole homes constructed through Awas Yojana, while many have got only one instalment. Similarly, the tap water scheme of Nitish is also a big failure. We will vote in 2024 on their names, not in 2029,” said Shankar.

    Amidst these conversations, Chirag Paswan’s helicopter started to make rounds. Despite knowing the fact that there would be dust all around at the time of landing, people stood within feets of the safe separation boundary created by the administration.

    As soon as the helicopter landed and the last rotation of the blade was seen, the boundary was nowhere to be seen. The crowd rushed in to just shake hands with him. Even his appeal to maintain a safe distance did not help. 

    Moment when Chirag Paswan arrived.
    Moment when Chirag Paswan arrived.
    Chirag Paswan coming out
PC: Shambhavi Choudhary
    Chirag Paswan coming out PC: Shambhavi Choudhary

    With flowers on heads and garlands around their necks, both Chirag and Shambhavi began a road show. Hundreds of workers on bikes, four wheelers accompanied them on the long journey. It complicated problems for administration, especially given the fact that officially time for ending the campaign (5pm) was inching closer.

    “Isse asan Raja-Maharaja ka suraksha hota hoga. Rath ke speed par suraksha aasan tha, lekin Fortuner jaisi tej gaadi ko charo taraf se secure rakhne mein pasina nikal jaata hai,” said a Bihar policeman deputed there in a sarcastic tone.

    It is easier to interpret it as continuation of feudal and caste system in Bihar. The greener side of the grass is that both have earned this respect. While Chirag Paswan has made a remarkable comeback after a nasty (political) uncle-nephew feud, Shambhavi is a young and educated woman who accepts her privilege and says that she is willing to prove herself in people’s court.

    She gets encouragement from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi rates her very highly and did not hesitate in calling her 'daughter'. On multiple occasions, he has appealed to people to vote for her. The appeal now reverberates all across the Samastipur constituency.

    Shambhavi Choudhary appealing to people after  the road show.
    Shambhavi Choudhary appealing to people after the road show.

    Regardless of the result, one thing is certain that in her people see the woman face of Bihar politics. 

    For outsiders, it may be tough to believe that the political landscape which was once dominated by bahubalis is now seeing the rise of a DSE-graduate, and a woman at that.

    Bihar is the same place where women could not go outside after 6pm, where women needed a male to accompany them to college, where women having political power meant that the male members would usurp it.

    As the clock ticked five, the last day of the campaign came to an end.

    The ball, as they say, is now in people’s court.

    This report is part of Swarajya's 50 Ground Stories Project - an attempt to throw light on themes and topics that are often overlooked or looked down. You can support this initiative by sponsoring as little as Rs 2,999/-. Click here for more details.

    Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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