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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

In Bihar, a test of Modi wave in Lalu bastion

Anirban Guha Roy, Hindustan Times  Chapra, May 05, 2014
First Published: 19:54 IST(5/5/2014) | Last Updated: 20:02 IST(5/5/2014)

Will the BJP share the honours with a resurgent RJD in this Lok Sabha poll in Bihar or will the scales be tilted definitively in favour of one party or the other?

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And does the 'Modi wave' run deeper than the way it has been assessed by most people?

Or, will Nitish Kumar's JD (U) will put up a better than expected show to surprise analysts?

These are important questions expected to be settled to a very significant extent by the outcome of the elections for seven north Bihar Lok Sabha seats on May 7.

Bihar, at 40, sends the fourth largest number of MPs to Parliament, after UP (80), Maharashtra (48) and West Bengal (42). Andhra Pradesh also sends 42 MPs but the state will be bifurcated on June 2.

The seven seats on offer in this phase are significant for political notables in the fray, including leading women candidates.

The female nominees in the spotlight are former chief minister Rabri Devi (RJD-Saran), sitting BJP MP Rama Devi and former MP Lovely Anand of Samajwadi party (both in Sheohar) and sitting JD (U) MP Ashwamedh Devi (Ujiarpur).

Rabri Devi is taking on former union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP.

Saran, like other six seats, will provide a test case of the extent to which caste continues to dictate voting preference in the face of what the BJP insists is a strong 'Modi wave' sweeping the state and the JD (U) claim to development of Bihar.

Harinath Yadav, a small businessman at Shitalpur in Saran , insists there are only two poles in Saran, or, for that matter, in most of the other six seats – the RJD and the BJP. "There's no third pole," he claimed.

Yadav said his caste men, along with Rajputs, had been "marginalised" in the last eight years of Nitish rule and were ready to express their resentment by voting the RJD.

This is the line the RJD is selling in this election, especially this phase of the poll: that Lalu Prasad is bouncing back on the strength of a renewed combination of Muslims, Yadavs and Rajputs, which had worked for him in the 1990s.

Stakes and tempers are running are running high as clear from Lalu's anger at searching of Rabri Devi's vehicle by police early Sunday.

In a sense, the voting patterns in Saran, Maharajganj and Vaishali may be intertwined.

"If Rajputs vote for the BJP in Saran, their votes will be divided in Maharajganj and Vaisali too. But, if that is checked, the RJD has an edge as Yadavs always act as catalysts in these constituencies," said Ramesh Singh, a school teacher in Vaishali.

Another high-profile battle is in the offing in Hajipur, between former union minister Ram Vilas Paswan (BJP ally LJP) and former chief minister Ram Sunder Das, with RJD-backed Congress nominee Sanjiv Prasad Tony, also in the race.

Paswan had lost to Das in 2009.


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