“The elders are solidly behind Laluji. The post-1990 generation cannot forget what he has done for us. But about the more educated young men, we are not sure anymore.”
This is how, Bhavnath Rai, 63, of Majhalia, a prominent Yadav village in Chapra district, narrated how the election is playing out in one of the most talked about constituencies of India, Saran, where RJD boss Lalu Prasad’s wife, Rabri Devi, is contesting the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Singh Rudy.
Prasad’s ‘pocket borough’ for decades is under serious threat from wave triggered by the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. It has led to the consolidation of Muslim votes for the RJD, but split the young Yadavs on the development issue.
While the mood is decidedly pro-Saffron in urban areas, where recent prosperity has made the people more assured of the future, the young men at Marhoura, where Lalu Prasad set up a railway axle plant and brought prosperity to the region — are not happy.
While Yadavs gave land for the setting up of the factory and got good compensation and jobs, others who set up shop to survive, could not make much, thanks to the `1,500-crore factory not going on stream.
Amit Ranjan, 28, of Arvindnagar, said, “I opened a grocery store believing that a railway colony would eventually come up, but all my investments have gone waste.”
So till now, Rudy seems to have advantage Rabri Devi, especially after one of Modi’s gala rallies in the area on April 30.
What’s more, with the Yadavs and Rajputs having equal numerical presence, the EBC groups matter and the BJP’s tie-up with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP is turning the tide with an aggressive door-to-door campaign for the BJP.
One of the RJD supporters said on condition of anonymity that the Bhumihars, an upper caste subset, were important as they could tilt the scale in such a close fight. If the Bhumihars vote for Prasad, the result is a foregone conclusion. But “outside Saran, they have solidly backed Narendra Modi”, he said.
It now seems that Rabri Devi, a former CM herself but mostly considered to be Prasad’s proxy candidate — as he cannot contest following his conviction in a fodder scam case for the next 11 years — will have a tough time meeting the aspirations of young Yadavs.
Baccha Singh, a Rajput at Nizamchak in Sonepur, said, “Prasad won the Chapra turf four times, beating Rudy twice in succession in 2004 and 2009 — the last time by some 50,000 votes. But Rabri, as a candidate, does not evoke the same intensity, which may make the game uncomfortably close for the RJD.”
At the RJD camp in the house of former MLA and minister Udit Rai, supporters look disturbed, despite the fact that Prasad addressed more than 123 rallies and up to 20 street-corner meetings a day, besides following a punishing schedule of 5am-to-3am the next day. “That has been his routine in the last one week,” Rai said.
But a bigger worry for the RJD camp is Rudy, who does not criticise Rabri Devi at all. Aghore Yadav, 51, an RJD worker, said, “If Rudy attacked Rabri Devi, the sympathy factor would have forced women, the EBCs and other backward caste formations to close ranks.”
The canny Rajput refers to Rabri Devi as his bhabhi (sister-in-law), who cannot be criticised.