The political pulse of Bihar could not be better gauged in any other parliamentary constituency than Patliputra where the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s eldest daughter Misa Bharati, a doctor by profession, is in a neck to neck fight with BJP’s Ram Kripal Yadav who recently left Lalu’s RJD after being denied a ticket. Sitting MP Ranjan Prasad Yadav who defeated Lalu in the last LS elections, too, is in the fray.
For Lalu, the poll fight is a means to revive his political fortunes that took a nose dive in last couple of elections in which his party lost miserably and was eventually reduced to only four seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
He knows very well that without a win in Patliputra, he would not be able to reach Delhi. After being barred from contesting elections over his conviction in the fodder scam case, Lalu is desperately looking for a political base in the national capital.
With majority of voters belonging to his own Yadav caste, Lalu would want to send the message that he is their only popular leader. Predominantly a rural constituency with more than 90 per cent of its inhabitants depending on the rural economy, Patliputra has been a strong centre of peasant movement.
“Interestingly, for the first time Yadav leaders are making a bee line for Bhumihars who were earlier considered their political enemies,” said Dhanesh, a local businessman from Bihta. “Now Bhumihars are the real kingmakers in the Yadav land,” he opined.
All three major political parties have put up Yadav candidates who are likely to share the votes from the same caste pool of five lakh Yadav voters, making the support of Bhumihars who constitute about 3 lakh voters crucial for winning the election.
BJP’s Ram Kripal, a former Lalu ally, who knows too well that the Yadav votes are bound to get split, is banking heavily on Bhumihars. Realising the importance of the constituency, the BJP for the first time organised a Narendra Modi rally in the small town of Paliganj.
Indu Bhushan, son of a slain Ranvir Sena chief is also in the poll fray. Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste farmers, especially Bhumihars, is held responsible for a series of massacres of Dalits and other weaker sections of the society in 1990s.
A large chunk of the Kurmi voters may align with JD(U) candidates like the last parliamentary elections but JD(U)’s real test would be in his own bastion. Meanwhile, Lalu is trying his best to make it a straight contest between the BJP and RJD, constantly referring to the fight as a “Misa vs Modi” election.
Attempting to strike an emotional chord with the voters, Lalu, at a recent election rally said, “Misa meri beti hi nahin hai, Patliputra ki bahu bhi hai (Misa is not only my daughter but is also the daughter-in-law of Patliputra).” Misa’s husband Shailesh who hails from a village in the constituency is also campaigning for her. Wooing the young voters, Misa has roped in two IIT graduates in her campaign team.