MADHEPURA: There is a saying in Madhepura: “Rome Pope ka toh Madhepura gope ka’ (As Rome is to Pope, so is Madhepura to Gopes (Yadavs))—the reason most top Yadav leaders have sought to adopt it as their home, among them RJD leader Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav, a four-time MP from Madhepura. A strongman-turned-politician, Rajesh Ranjan Yadav aka Pappu Yadav, the sitting MP, calls it his ‘actual home’ too, as does Dinesh Chandra Yadav, the NDA candidate.
“Diamond is what cuts diamond,” says Anil Kumar Rai of Gandaul village, justifying Lalu Prasad’s decision to field Sharad Yadav against Pappu. But then, it’s not about Madhepura, but sheer politics, as all the three candidates—Sharad, Pappu and Nitish’s man Dinesh Chandra Yadav, all Yadavs—take on each other on the grounds of their caste’s majority in the constituency.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar knows the contest is difficult and has been staying put in Madhepura for the last three days with Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP and LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan in tow. “Its Nitish and Sushil who are asking for votes, not the JD(U) candidate Dinesh”, noted Arun Kumar, 62, a teacher.
Akhilesh Kumar Yadav, 35, believes, “local issues such as flood devastation, falling farm prices, lack of roads etc. do not matter, nor is it about polarisation, but how to divide the voters.”
Pappu, an influential ex-RJD MP with a tainted past, is up as an independent candidate after getting no party to hand him a ticket. “There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. Pappu, once considered closest to Lalu Prasad, is now an inveterate foe, while Sharad, a foe of RJD, is the party candidate”, said Narendra Kumar, 43, a hotel owner. “Most believe NDA-backed JD(U) candidate Dinesh Chandra Yadav is in the contest more strongly than Pappu”, he said.
However, Nitish Kumar’s development mantra does not work here. “While roads elsewhere in Bihar rival the best in the country, in Madhepura they lie in complete shambles. Even the main roads in the town invite catastrophe”, said a student at a coaching institute.
“Roads won’t bring victory to JD(U) since they hardly exist”, said Nirmal Kumar, an autorickshaw driver. However, Surendra Kumar Rajak, 27, an SC youth, was more hopeful, saying, “Roads may be metalled one day, but we don’t want to go back to the lantern age (The lantern is the symbol of Lalu’s RJD).” His hope springs from the fact that Madhepura constituency does not lack in power connections—a visible symbol of development during Nitish’s rule.
Nitish is taking the Madhepura contest as a prestige fight against Sharad Yadav, once his closest aide and the NDA chairperson. The fallout has been bitter and Kumar is leaving no stone unturned to ensure Sharad’s defeat.
“Give me my wages if I have developed this area”, is the chief minister’s appeal in meeting after meeting, while Sushil Modi recalls the achievements of the PM. “Don’t you see TVs now with electricity available at all times? So, be generous in paying me my wages and I promise you that the NDA has no other agenda except development”, Nitish said, addressing a rally on the borders of Madhepura and Supaul on Tuesday.
Sunita Devi, a JD(U) worker, feels “the battle is triangular’ and the division of Lalu Prasad’s Muslim-Yadav (MY) votes will help the party candidate win. But an alumnus of JNU, Jyoti Kumar Mandal, and a relative of Mandal Commission hero BP Mandal, said at Murho, some 5 km away from the town, “Madhepura seems to be sticking still to its traditional voting pattern, and a division in MY votes would not be easy as commonly perceived”.
Mohammed Afzal Hooda, 38, and Mohammad Feroz, 43, who sell vegetables, said there was just a single issue--how Lalu Prasad’s decision to field Sharad Yadav could be proven right. “We wish to ensure Sharad wins”, they said.
Pappu Yadav, the independent candidate is, however, confident. “The youths of Madhepura are with me and the results shall surely be in my favour. I am a son of the soil and have fought for its betterment”, he said.
Pappu said, “The RJD has ditched not only me but all the people by fielding Sharad Yadav, who is nothing but a political liability to the party”.But local poll watchers differ. “Nitish’s Kurmi caste, besides SC and extremely poor caste voters, will be the deciding factor, which is why Nitish and his other NDA colleagues are camping here”, said Arun Kumar Das, owner of the Das Electronics showroom.
Pintu Yadav, 33, who is proud of keeping at least six horses of different breeds at Laxmia village, had an interesting insight on the outcome: “Whoever emerges winner on May 23, one thing that is certain is that he would be a Yadav”.