There is just a hint of a ‘pardesi’ accent as this young hotel management graduate from Switzerland talks about development at a remote Valmiki Dalit locality in Sikandarabad, Bulandshahr.
He keeps his address simple and makes no personal attacks, only promising development if the Samajwadi Party (SP) were to be re-elected to governance in Uttar Pradesh. Through it all, his hands remain folded in a traditional gesture of humility.
Meet 33-year-old Rahul Yadav, the English-speaking son-in-law of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav. The son of Samajwadi Party MLC Jitendra Yadav, he had married the former Bihar chief minister’s fourth daughter – Ragini – in 2012.
“I really want to make a difference in your lives. I am not seeking votes in the name of religion or caste, but in the name of development. If elected, I will ensure that each of you get medical insurance and top medical care at subsidised rates. I want to upgrade the quality of your schools and colleges, so educated youngsters can get good jobs. I have plans for you,” he says.
While Ragini is already campaigning for her husband, her sister – RJD Rajya Sabha MP Misa Bharti – was expected to join the campaign on Tuesday. Lalu and his son, Bihar deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav, will hold a public rally for Rahul on Wednesday.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who reluctantly replaced local SP chief Abdul Rab with Rahul as the party candidate for the constituency, has already sought votes on behalf of Lalu’s son-in-law. “Akhileshji made a passionate appeal for Rahul by drawing similarities between them. He said that like him, Rahul has also studied abroad and wants to bring about a change in the lives of the people through development,” said Awadhesh Yadav, Rahul’s maternal uncle, a Delhi-based businessman.
Awadhesh said he was confident of Rahul’s success because “politics is undergoing a sea change”. “The days of criminal-politicians are ending. It’s a new dawn, and let’s welcome that,” he added.
Rahul focuses on development in the next two meetings too. “Main vikas ki rajniti karna chahta hoon (I want to engage in politics of development),” he says at a public meeting in Gorki.
So, what made Rahul take the plunge into politics? “When I came back from Switzerland, I realised there was so much to be done here. I thought that if I can change something, why shouldn’t I?” he said.
Rahul is pitted against sitting BJP MLA Vimla Solanki and BSP candidate Haji Mohd Imran Ansari. And, going by the general mood, he seems to enjoy the public’s goodwill. “Despite the BSP putting up a candidate from my community, I have decided to vote for Rahul because his approach is refreshingly different,” says Mohd Mursalin, a lawyer.
Rahul’s father, Jitendra, had contested the 2012 UP polls on a Congress ticket after being denied one by the SP. Though he lost, he managed to garner nearly 35,000 votes.
This time round, Jitendra is banking on the Congress-SP alliance to secure his son’s win from a constituency where Chaubisa-Chatisa – the name given to 36 Yadav-dominated villages from the constituency – could play a crucial role.
Rahul is not the only member of Lalu’s extended family to have links with the SP. The RJD supremo’s youngest daughter, Raj Lakshmi, is married to SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s grandnephew – Mainpuri Lok Sabha MP Tej Pratap.