Pataliputra evokes images of ancient glory — of Ashoka the Great and the magnificent Magadha Empire. Ironically, today the battle for the Lok Sabha seat of Pataliputra, one of the two parliamentary seats of Patna, narrates a shameful story of betrayal and perfidy, nepotism and dynastic politics.
In a three-cornered intra-Yadav fight-to-finish contest, Misa Bharati, the 37-year-old Emergency-era born eldest daughter of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, is pitted against two well-known rebel Yadav leaders: Ram Kripal Yadav who quit the RJD recently to join the BJP and Ranjan Prasad Yadav, the sitting JD(U) MP from the constituency.
Ram Kripal, the current Rajya Sabha MP from RJD, had defeated BJP’s C P Thakur in 2004. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, he vacated the Pataliputra seat for Lalu who contested against Ranjan and lost. Both Yadav leaders are former acolytes of Lalu. Ram Kripal today exemplifies the exodus of popular grassroots Yadav leaders of RJD switching over to the BJP given the simmering rebellion against dynastic family rule within the RJD. “Family justice has replaced the agenda of social justice in RJD,” says Ram Kripal.
“Instead of rewarding the popular Ram Kripal with the Pataliputra seat for his sacrifice and loyalty and letting him defeat Ranjan, Lalu, who despite defeat considers Pataliputra as his family borough, passed the party baton to his daughter Misa,” says an RJD MLA whose Assembly segment falls within Pataliputra Lok Sabha constituency.
“His name is Ram but through his sacrifice and loyalty he has proven he is more like Hanuman,” argues Kishore, a mukhiya of Punaichak, a Yadav-dominated locality in Pataliputra. “The Yadavs are clearly livid against what they call as the great betrayal and back-stabbing by Lalu Yadav,” he adds.
Betrayal and nepotism are not alien to RJD’s political culture. Lalu had split the Janata Dal in 1997 and formed the RJD to impose his wife Rabri Devi as chief minister. Later, when he was jailed in the fodder scam, his two notorious brother-in-laws, Sadhu and Subhash Yadav, ran a parallel government which was known for its venality and criminality. Since the courts have banned Lalu from contesting for six years, his wife is fielded in Saran and his daughter from Pataliputra.
Stretching from Danapur Cantonment to Maner in the west and Masaurhi in the south, Pataliputra is dominated by Yadavs, also called Gopes. The slogan ‘Rome hai Pope ka, Pataliputra hai Gope ka’ (Rome belongs to Pope, Pataliputra to Gopes) has replaced a similar slogan for Madhepura, the previous Yadav-dominated seat in north Bihar after the delimitation process.
Of the 15 lakh voters, over four lakh are Yadavs, almost 30 per cent. About 1.5 lakh are Muslim voters and about 1.75 lakh voters are from the upper caste Bhumihars. The gaping cracks visible in the Yadav camp has ripped apart Lalu’s Muslim-Yadav (MY) coalition. An additional reason for Yadav leaders and voters deserting the RJD is the drastic fall in the number of Yadav MLAs in the Bihar Assembly – from 86 in 1995 to 39 in 2010.
That is, Yadav leaders reason, because a declining RJD is associated as the sole party of the Yadavs and Lalu as their sole leader. A better strategy is to search for alternative leaders.
In the past, the MY coalition consolidated 80 per cent of Yadav votes. Today, over one-third of the Yadavs of the erstwhile RJD’s MY coalition has deserted Lalu for the BJP, said RJD sources.