PATNA: It’s Kayastha vs Kayastha and Yadav Vs Yadav as Bihar’s most high-profile parliamentary constituencies — Patna Sahib and Pataliputra — go to polls in the last phase. BJP candidate and Union Minister of Law and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad, a debutant in the poll arena, is locked in a keen contest with actor and sitting BJP MP-turned-Congress candidate Shatrughan Sinha in Patna Sahib.
With close family bond and long association with the BJP, both candidates, while attacking each other on political issues, have refrained from getting personal.
“Both belong to well-known Kayashtha families and avoid commenting on each other. They attack party-wise, but are respectful to each other,” says Rakesh Kumar, a voter.
The Pataliputra constituency is witnessing another fierce contest between one-time Chacha (uncle) and Bhatiji (niece). Here, BJP’s sitting MP and Union Minister of State for Rural Development Ram Kripal Yadav is taking on Misa Bharti, the eldest daughter of RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
Once considered a close family aide of Lalu, Ram Kripal had resigned and joined the BJP in 2014 and won the seat. “In 2014 elections, Misa had threatened to chop-off one of my hands but as an uncle, I bless her still. Politically, she cannot match me in performance,” Ram Kripal says.
Mahesh Kumar of Digha, an ardent supporter of the MP, says, “The Pataliputra seat has never been lucky for Lalu and his family members in polls. Lalu himself lost the election to his aide-turned-foe Ranjan Kumar Yadav of JD-U in 2009.”
Prakash Yadav, a voter, says, “Though a Yadav dominated seat, Pataliputra never accepted Lalu as the sole Yadav leader and elected another of the same caste. Voting here has always been on performance, not on personal stakes.”
Demographically, Pataliputra is largely a rural constituency, while Patna Sahib is urban. The contest on both seats hinges on caste, with the arithmetic favouring the BJP. “On the ground, caste arithmetic is explored and consolidated by all candidates while basic and larger issues of governance hardly matter,” Ravindra Yadav of Danapur says.
“Caste-wise, there are around 5 lakh Yadav voters, followed by 4.5 lakh Bhumihars, 1.5 lakh Brahmins, 3 lakh Rajputs, 3 lakh Kurmis and others in Pataliputra, which favour the NDA across its six Assembly segments,” claims Anjani Kumar Singh of Naubatpur.
Patna Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, is dominated by 4.5 lakh Kayastha voters, followed by Yadavs and other castes. This was the first constituency in Bihar where the voter-verification paper audit trail was used across six Assembly segments.
Shatrughan Sinha aka ‘Bihari Babu’ was elected as a BJP candidate from this seat in 2009 and in 2014, defeating Bhojpuri super star-turned politician Kunal Singh of the Congress last time. After consistently speaking out against the current BJP leadership, he finally quit the BJP and joined the Congress in April.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, the BJP candidate, believes “nationalism coupled with development is the choice of people in Patna Sahib”, but his rival counters him, saying, “False promises and one-man show in a two-man party will be rejected by the voters”.
The caste arithmetic of NDA banks on Kayastha, Kurmi, SC, voters and traders, besides the traditional upper caste votes, while the Congress is banking on the Yadavs, minority, SC and EBC voters.
Since Patna Sahib is an urban constituency, split among NDA voters on caste lines is believed to be minimal.
“Around 91,024 votes polled by JD(U) candidate Gopal Prasad Sinha in 2014 could naturally shift to the BJP. Shatrughan, as the BJP candidate last time, had drawn 4,85,905 votes. This time, those votes will shift to Prasad,” said a BJP leader.
“Star campaigners of both the Mahagathbandhan and the NDA are leaving no stone unturned to ensure a victory, holding street corner meetings and roadshows,” says Sanjiv Kumar, a retired police officer at Digha.