Saran (formerly Chapra) was known as ‘Rajputana of Bihar’ because of the numerical strength of Rajputs and their dominance in politics. They had only one challenger – the Yadavs, who were equally powerful and politically ambitious.
After delimitation of constituencies in 2008, the caste equation changed. Saran now has marginal dominance of Yadavs over Rajputs with the Taraiya assembly segment going to the adjoining Maharajganj Lok Sabha constituency. Rajputs outnumber Yadavs in Taraiya.
The fight for supremacy between the two powerful castes reflected in the past 15 parliamentary polls with a Rajput and a Yadav winning the Saran seat eight and seven times respectively. Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad won four times from 1977-2009, losing only once in 1980.
Lalu Prasad is not contesting this time because of his conviction in a fodder scam case. But he is fighting a proxy battle by fielding his wife Rabri Devi, Bihar’s first woman chief minister. Perhaps for the first time, Prasad’s political career is at stake because his efforts to bounce back in the state’s politics depend upon his wife’s victory.
Pitted against Rabri is BJP nominee Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who had won from Saran twice but never defeated Prasad. Rudy had won in 1996 defeating Janata Dal nominee Lal Babu Rai and in 1999 beating RJD’s Hira Lal Rai. Apart from Rajputs, Rudy claims support of Brahmins, Bhumihars and Kayasthas, Vaishyas, Koeris, Paswans and majority of the extremely backward castes in the constituency.
The RJD is banking on the votes of Yadavs, who are behind Rabri, besides the support of nearly 9% Muslims. “If the Muslims continued their support to Lalu Prasad, the way they used to do in the past, Rabri Devi stands a fair chance,” said Ashok Kumar, a former aide of the RJD chief.
But Janata Dal (United) candidate Salim Parvez, trying to make the contest triangular, eyes Lalu’s Muslim vote bank. Parvez is expecting a major share of backward Muslims, and the votes of the EBCs, Kurmis and mahadalits.
Trying to spoil the poll prospects of Rabri Devi is her younger brother Anirudh Prasad alias Sadhu Yadav, who wants to contest as an Independent from Saran. Sadhu, who fell out with Lalu Prasad after RJD denied him nomination from West Champaran in 2009 general elections, tried to get a ticket from Rashtriya Loktantrik Samata Party, an ally of BJP.