In Patliputra, thrice unlucky Lalu family seeks to break jinx

By Nachiketa Narayan

PTI, May 28, 2024, 11:24 AM IST

Representative image

Patna: The RJD seeks to break the jinx in Bihar’s Pataliputra Lok Sabha constituency, covering rural areas around the state capital, which the party’s proverbial first family has been failing to win since the seat’s inception.

The constituency came into being after delimitation of 2008 and in Lok Sabha polls a year later, RJD’s founding president Lalu Prasad chose to enter the fray himself, only to suffer a shocking defeat at the hands of Ranjan Yadav, a former close aide who had revolted and contested as a candidate of JD(U) headed by arch rival and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Yadav could not retain the seat five years later when it was the turn of yet another aide-turned-adversary Ram Kripal Yadav to inflict a defeat on the family of the RJD supremo.

Ram Kripal Yadav joined the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and rode the “Modi wave” to beat Misa Bharti, the eldest daughter of Prasad, who was making her debut.

Bharti made another attempt to win the seat for her father’s party in 2019, but Ram Kripal Yadav romped home, riding the strong wave of nationalism that had swept the state in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.

The family seems to have hardened its resolve following the three successive defeats, all with margins of about 40,000 votes or less.

Bharti, despite enjoying a second consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, is out in the heat and dust of a direct election, like the fabled King Bruce who drew inspiration from a spider.

Ram Kripal Yadav, confident of a hat-trick, says “I am a son of the soil. Every voter will vouch for the fact that I am always available for them in their hour of need. Add to this the popularity of the Modi government at the Centre and performance of the NDA in the state. Draw a contrast with the rivals whose candidate is seen only at the time of polls”.

Bharti’s failure to remain in touch with the people of Patliputra, the name derived from the ancient seat of power, is, indeed, a thorn in the flesh for her party.

Her mother Rabri Devi, a former Chief Minister who has been carrying out a door-to-door campaign, spends much of her time pacifying common folks’ complaint that “Didi” comes only once every five years.

However, Bharti seems to be taking the criticism in her stride and pinning her hopes on the incumbency factor and the buzz generated by the promise of “rozgar” by the INDIA bloc that she represents.

Having famously irked the BJP with the taunt “Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks third term at the age of 75 but Agniveers will be retired in their early 20s, she also picks holes in the free ration scheme, which the NDA sees as its trump card.

“What should people do with five kg of rice? Should they eat it with water? They cannot even think of adding salt, with prices spiralling out of control and people having no source of income”, alleges Bharti.

The RJD also hopes to build on the stupendous performance of Mahagathbandhan, helmed by the party, in the 2020 assembly polls when it notched up all the six seats falling in the Lok Sabha constituency.

The RJD had won three of these while two were bagged by the CPI(ML) Liberation.

However, recently the BJP demonstrated its famed ability to fish in troubled waters by weaning away the Congress’ disgruntled Bikram MLA Siddhartha Saurav.

Moreover, known for never taking an election lightly, the party has pulled out its heavy artillery for Ram Kripal Yadav.

Besides Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has canvassed in Patliputra, with rallies of satraps like Yogi Adityanath and Mohan Yadav serving as icing on the cake.

BJP sources also admit they are banking on the ability of their alleged B-team, the AIMIM headed by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, to cut into the votes of Muslims, for whom the RJD has so far been the first choice in Bihar.

Owaisi recently canvassed in Patliputra, but apparently mindful of the consolidation of anti-BJP votes, he made it clear that his party will support a government headed by a Prime Minister “other than Modi or any leader of the BJP”.

The RJD, meanwhile, has been busy soothing ruffled feathers. Recently it re-inducted Ranjan Yadav, who has grown inactive politically.

Besides, Lalu Prasad, who largely stays indoors because of old age and ill health, visited homes of MLAs from Maner and Danapur Bhai Virendra and Ritlal Yadav respectively to solicit their support for his daughter amid fears that denial of a Lok Sabha ticket may have rubbed them the wrong way.

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