As the clock ticks closer to 5pm on Tuesday, Misa Bharti gets nervous. Not wanting to violate the EC's rules, she instructs party workers to remove flags from vehicles in her convoy and start heading home.
Misa Bharti on the campaign trail on the outskirts of Patna. (HT photo)
But crowds waiting for her at every village bazaar make it a longer journey than she had planned.
At Khaira village under Punpun block in Pataliputra Lok Sabha constituency, women accost Misa and complain about not getting ration cards. "The UPA has brought in a food security law. We will give you new cards soon," Misa tells them. One voter points out that most of the villagers don't even have an identity card yet.
Misa, the RJD candidate from Pataliputra, smiles, "I am not in the government yet. This is my first election. Vote for the lantern and see the difference."
It may be her first election, but the daughter of RJD chief Lalu Prasad clearly has sharp political instincts.
On her way back in the car, she tells Hindustan Times that there are advantages of coming from a political family – she has seen elections closely since childhood, there is recognition and media attention.
But she rejects accusations that political dynasties have taken over the Indian polity.
"There are very few political families. I am 38, and could have got a backdoor entry any time. People had told me to go to Rajya Sabha, but I was clear I wanted to come through the democratic route."
Ask her if Lalu's old associate and senior leader Ram Kripal Yadav, who is contesting from the BJP after being denied an RJD ticket – and whom she calls "chacha" – did not deserve the ticket more, and she says, "He would have deserved it if he had no post. But he was the party's MP in Rajya Sabha, with almost three years remaining. It is a seat he has still not given up."
Misa lived in Bangalore and Delhi with her IIM-alumnus husband, before shifting to Patna for his business interests. Their two children continue to study in the national capital.
Misa speaks animatedly of her initial plans to make the constituency an IT and education hub, which have now been tempered after seeing that the area lacks even basic facilities.
But it is in contrast to her father, who once famously dismissed development and computers.
Misa admits there is a generation gap at times, but defends him.
"He was born at a different time, and he empowered the backwards. By the time he could focus on development, he had these false cases against him. But remember when he went to the Centre, he did a very good job as railways minister."
Politics, she says, has given her family a lot but has also taken a lot – such as the times Lalu has been in jail.
Returning to the present, where she is locked in a tough battle, Misa admits her main competition is the BJP.
"Ranjan Yadav of JD (U) never came to the constituency after being elected. He is not a factor."
The RJD is heavily banking on a Muslim consolidation in their favour.
However, the big question is whether Ram Kripal Yadav will substantially take away the Yadav base or if it will remain with Lalu. It is a seat of prestige for the RJD chairman and he has visited the area almost two dozen times in the past ten days.
Misa has inherited her father's antagonism towards the BJP.
When asked about BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's attempts to play the OBC card in Bihar, where he has specifically reached out to Yadavs, Misa says, "Where was he when backwards needed him the most, during the Mandal Commission report? He was sitting in the rath and practicing kamandal politics. People are not fools."