Diwali began much ahead of schedule at RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s home on Sunday as trends of the vote count showed a considerable lead for his Grand Alliance with foe-turned-friend Nitish Kumar and the Congress in the Bihar assembly election.
The crowd swelled outside Prasad’s residence in Patna, shouting celebratory slogans as they watched on a big screen the grand alliance crossing the 143-mark in latest leads.
“We have been working hard for the past four months. This marks the return of the Yadav rule. We will now have IAS officers from the Yadav community again,” said RJD worker Mannu Yadav, joining the revelry — replete with drums, trumpets and firecrackers.
A similar mood prevailed among seasoned politicians of the anti-BJP alliance too. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, who is confidant of the coalition winning about 150 seats in the 243-member assembly, said it is a victory of principles over moneybags.
“It was a tough, but straight fight. On the one hand were moneybags and on the other were principles,” he told reporters.
As trends showed the JD(U) and RJD having a neck-and-neck contest within the alliance, he put the future in perspective. “Even if Nitish wins fewer seats than Lalu, he will still be the CM,” he told a news channel.
Elsewhere, the fate of 100kg of laddoos and firecrackers ordered by the BJP hang in the balance after the party ordered the sweets when initial trends from the counting of postal ballots showed an NDA lead. It triggered celebrations outside the BJP headquarters in Patna and New Delhi. But it did not last long.
People outside Prasad’s residence tried to explain the BJP’s loss. “The cow statement was an insult to Laluji. He has high reverence for Hindus and their faith. BJP’s ploy to use it against him backfired,” said Nand Kishore Prasad, who called himself the chief of Patna Cattle Farms Association.
Prasad had asked if “Hindus don’t eat beef too”, in response to the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri on the suspicion of cow slaughter. “It is the poor who are forced to eat beef,” he said and the BJP took the remarks to target him.
BJP leaders tried to explain as well. “Foreign powers are involved in this election,” Meenakshi Lekhi told a news channel. Well, who? She didn’t clarify.
It took another party spokesman to state the facts, straight. “If we are losing it is purely because of the arithmetic of opposition unity,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Party candidate for Patna Sahib, Nand Kishore Yadav, was still hopeful as the trends varied from one channel to another. “I am confident of winning,” said the leader who won the past five elections from the constituency.
BJP leaders, who in the morning were upbeat about their prospects, turned subdued. Party leader and Union Minister Ram Kripal Yadav said it was up to the top brass to analyse the results.
It was a far cry from what another BJP leader, Kailash Vijayvargiya, who oversaw the party’s campaign in Bihar, said in the morning. “I congratulate the people of Bihar for voting for development. The credit goes to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s and (BJP president) Amit Shah’s leadership.”
(With inputs from agencies)