The term Leningrad became a hallmark of the Russian revolution after 1917 as it has over 230 places associated with the life and activities of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the architect of the Soviet revolution. Leningrad is the former name of Russia’s second largest city, Saint Petersburg after Moscow. However, there is another Leningrad in the east that is in India. Bihar’s Begusarai that is in headlines due to the fierce contest of CPI candidate Kanhaiya Kumar and BJP's Giriraj Singh is popularly known as “Leningrad of the east”.
Ram Charitra Singh from Bihat village of Begusarai became the irrigation minister in the state’s first chief minister Krishna Sinha’s cabinet. However, his son Chandra Shekhar Singh rebelled against his father’s political choice and founded the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Begusarai.
Stepping into parliamentary politics for the first time in 1962 by becoming an MLA as CPI candidate from Teghra assembly constituency, Chandra Shekhar Singh was credited to bring Communism to Begusarai, Bihar. Being the son of Ram Charitra Singh, it added value to his stature. To create an environment of political awareness, Chandra Shekhar formed the district's first public library in the village which became the center of daily talk and friendly tussle. He laid the left’s foundation ideologically and organizationally. He was the first elected leader of the communist party in whole Hindi-heartland including Bihar. At that time it was said that he was the first red star in Bihar assembly.
It is said that after the Naokothi land struggle where more than 3000 acres of land led by poor landless people against the landlords. This was Bihar’s first land movement. Since then more than 200 party members right from sitting mukhiya to sitting MLA, have been killed. These struggle of deprived class for livelihood paved path for a building of Leningrad.
All seven Assembly constituencies (Cheria Bariarpur, Bacchwara, Teghra, Mitihani, Sahebpur Kamal, Begusarai and Bakhri) and two Lok Sabha constituencies (Balia and Begusarai) once were bastion of the left led by CPI. CPI legislators from the Teghra assembly seat got elected for more than four decades (1962 to 2010) at stretch which is a record in itself. Another important leader was Suraj Narayan Singh, a popular mass leader and who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980 from Balia constituency.
The making of Bihar’s Leningrad can be summed in three parts-
In 1960’s, Kedarnath Singh, a firebrand communist leader used to operate in the hinterlands of Barauni, Teghara, Balia, Begulsarai, Bakhari. A lower court had convicted Kedarnath on sedition charges leveled by the police under sections 124A and 505B of the IPC. The Patna High Court had upheld a one-year sentence for Kedarnath. But the five-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court overruled the lower court and the Patna High Court orders and Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code was clarified by the Supreme Court of India in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962).
In the past few years, red bastion lost its shine electorally but after the incident of alleged anti-national sloganeering in JNU in which Kanhaiya Kumar was charged in the charge sheet, efforts to revamp the Begusarai’s base has doubled from all corners. With Kanhaiya Kumar in Begusarai, there is an opportunity for the left to prevent itself from being left out.