Krishna Yadav, 65, of Maner was a die-hard admirer of Ram Kripal Yadav, the Rajya Sabha MP who deserted Lalu Prasad’s RJD and is now the BJP candidate from the keenly-watched Pataliputra constituency.
Krishna, the milkman, saw (on TV) Ram Kripal touching the feet of BJP president Rajnath Singh and party vice-president Dr C P Thakur. Livid, he changed his mind. “Ram Kripal has all the traits of a good leader, but of late, he has proved he has no self-respect,” laments Krishna wondering why Ram Kripal, who has been MP for four terms (thrice Lok Sabha and once Rajya Sabha), needed to touch upper caste leaders’ feet.
“Biradiri mein naak kata diya (He has brought disrepute to the entire Yadav community)…just to bag one LS ticket,” he rues.
So deeply ingrained is the caste feeling in this Yadav-dominated constituency that the backward caste voters here can’t make out whether a seasoned leader like Ram Kripal touched the feet of Rajput and Bhumihar BJP leaders out of respect or was it an effort just to get BJP ticket against RJD’s Misa Bharti, Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter.
But Maner is just one of the six Assembly seats in Pataliputra Lok Sabha constituency.
The other five include Masaurhi, Danapur, Paliganj, Bikram and Phulwarisharif, where both Misa and Ram Kripal are locked in a do-or-die battle.
Lalu is pulling out all stops to ensure Misa makes a successful debut from a constituency which came into being in 2009 following bifurcation of Patna Lok Sabha seat into Patna Sahib and Pataliputra, post-delimitation.
“Misa meri beti hee nahin hai, Danapur ki bahu bhi hai,” Lalu strikes an emotional chord with the gathering reminding them that Misa’s in-laws stays at Danapur.
The 16 lakh voters in Pataliputra comprises Yadavs (5 lakhs), upper caste Bhumihars (3 lakhs), Dalits (2 lakhs), Extremely Backward Class (2 lakhs), Muslims (1.25 lakhs) and the rest others.
Lalu, who himself lost to JD (U)’s Ranjan Yadav, in 2009 by a margin of nearly 23,000 votes, is ensuring that this time there is no division of RJD votes.
With Shahi Imam backing the Congress-RJD alliance in Bihar, Lalu has reasons to be happy. But he is still not taking any chance.
His desperation was amply evident when he sought the blessings of a gangster Ritlal Yadav’s father for Misa. Ritlal, jailed for serious criminal offences, was planning to contest against Misa as an Independent. But Lalu along with Misa rushed to Ritlal’s house and asked his father to stop his son from doing so, as split in Yadav votes would spell doom for his daughter dearest. As a compromise, Lalu had to appoint the incarcerated leader Ritlal as general secretary of the RJD, a move which has not gone down well among general public.
“I was planning to vote for Misa. But Lalu, by appointing a terror like Ritlal as his party general secretary, has alienated the middle class, who do not want the return of jungle raj of Lalu-Rabri era,” said M K Sinha, a local resident, dwelling at length how he had to cough up ‘extortion money’ to Ritlal, while putting up boundary at his vacant plot.