iconimg Saturday, August 29, 2015

Anirban Guha Roy , Hindustan Times
Patna, March 30, 2014
Misa Bharti, the eldest daughter of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, used to address Ram Kripal Yadav as Kripal chacha (uncle). But this 'homely' relationship did not stop Ram Kripal, a Rajya Sabha MP, from quitting the RJD after Misa was given the party ticket from Pataliputra instead of him.

Ram Kripal is now standing against Misa on a BJP ticket. Misa is also fighting against Ranjan Prasad Yadav of the JD (U), another former close associate of her father.

Making the competition more intense is the fact that all three candidates belong to the Yadav caste, which would lead to a division of their caste votes – forming the majority with a 35% vote share in the constituency.

Yadav voters are followed in numbers by the upper castes, mainly Bhumihars and Rajputs, and then the EBCs and Muslims.

The parties are also trying hard to woo Muslims, who form 10% of the vote share.

The RJD and JD (U) are touting their secular credentials while the BJP is banking on Ram Kripal's secular image to win the votes of minorities.

"The contest is going to be very tough this time. And just like 2009, it is again a fight between Lalu and his friends-turned-foes," said Ramji Singh, a local farmer at Masaurhi, an assembly segment within the constituency.

In the 2009 elections, Lalu had lost from Pataliputra to Ranjan Prasad by a margin of 23,541 votes.

With all three candidates belonging to the same caste this time, voters seem more concerned with other issues like development.

The constituency has seen large-scale land acquisitions for educational institutions like IIT, Science City and hospitals in the past few years. These acquisitions has made some prosperous, but left others grumbling over insufficient compensation.

The deplorable condition of roads between Maner and Danapur, as well as in other parts of the constituency is also a significant issue bothering the residents.

"There is power, but the roads are very bad and making commuting difficult," said Manoranjan Kumar, a garment shop owner in Maner.

Those in the rural belts say the constituency still lack proper healthcare facilities, roads and initiatives for promoting agriculture.

Ajit Kumar, who belongs to a family of poor farmers in Masaurhi, says, "It does not really matter who gets elected, as none of them are visible in the constituency after the elections."