Rudy looks to spoil Lalu-Rabri party in Saran

Seventy-year-old Tarkeshwar Singh, who runs a dhaba on the Chapra-Hajipur highway, has an interesting tale to tell. Since the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, he did not vote for BJP candidate Rajiv Pratap Rudy twice—in 1996 and 1999. Rudy won on both occasions.

“People of your caste suggested that being a Rajput, I should always back a Rajput candidate, that too a sophisticated one like Rudy. But see the irony. In 2004 and 2009, I voted for Rudy. On both occasions he lost,” says Singh, wondering whether his vote is jinxed.

“This time, I am in a dilemma whether to vote in favour of Rudy,” he adds.

Notwithstanding this “folklore”, Saran, called Chapra before delimitation in 2009, is one Lok Sabha seat the entire country will watch with bated breath, as Lalu Prasad, debarred from contesting polls following his conviction in the fodder scam, has done a repeat of 1997.

Seventeen years ago, he pulled out wife Rabri Devi, a semi-literate person, from the kitchen and anointed her the CM of Bihar.

This time, he has fielded her from the seat which sent him to Lok Sabha for the first time in 1977, when he was in his late 20s. Since then Lalu has won from here four times, including the previous two LS polls.

His stint as railway minister in UPA-I from 2004 to 2009 saw a flurry of investments in this part of the cow-belt, including L&T setting up a railway wheel factory at Bela in Marhaura.

A diesel locomotive factory has been proposed in Saran, besides a coach repair shop.

Construction of a road-cum-rail bridge, to connect Patna with Sonepur, one of the Assembly segments of Saran, is under way. This bridge, whose completion has been delayed fr a long time, will reduce the travel time to the state capital when opened to public, possibly next year.

But Rudy dismisses all these development as hogwash. “None of the projects sanctioned by Lalu is operational,” he says, adding that the pace of development will gain momentum once he is re-elected to Lok Sabha this time. His supporters argue that the well-educated and sophisticated Rudy could be part of the Narendra Modi’s new young team, which would then transform the area.

“Is Rudy ever accessible or visible? Someone told me he washes his hand with soap after shaking hand with anyone from the deprived sections (of society),” Lalu had said while campaigning for Rabri. Many in the crowd agreed with him.

“I may not be in the fray. But it’s Chapra’s bahu Rabri whose prestige is at stake in Saran,” Lalu reminded his men, adding that Rabri has evolved as a mature leader from the shy home-maker of 1997.

Lalu knows that the battle in Saran is quite tough. In 2009, he had defeated Rudy by over 51,000 votes. Today, out of 14 lakh voters in Saran, Yadavs constitute 3.5 lakh while Rajputs 3 lakh. And in the traditional battle between a Yadav and a Rajput, it’s the three Ms—Muslims, Mahadalits and the Most Backward Class—who will eventually tilt the balance.

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