The newly carved out Pataliputra seat is key to locking the fate of both Lalu Prasad and his rival Nitish Kumar. It is this seat that will decide who Bihar’s real mass leader is.
For Lalu, 61, it’s a do-or-die situation in Pataliputra, as his prospects from Saran, where he contested against BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, are not very clear. Locked in a straight contest with his one-time friend JD(U)’s Ranjan Prasad Yadav, Lalu has not left anything to chance. He has held nearly 80 elections meetings and rallies across the constituency.
And Nitish — knowing well that if Lalu is defeated from Pataliputra, a predominantly Yadav seat, it would be his political victory — has made it a prestige issue. Along with Ranjan, he has been appealing to voters to export the ‘alien Yadav’ (Lalu is from Gopalganj) and import the ‘local Yadav’ (Ranjan is from Patna).
Ranjan, who defected from the LJP after Ram Vilas Paswan decided to ally with RJD, has dubbed Lalu the “betrayer of the Yadavs”. Under the banner of Bihar Yadav Jagran Manch set up by him, Ranjan has been highlighting the misdeeds of the RJD’s 15-year reign.
Though the contest in Pataliputra is expected to be a photo finish, Congress’s Vijay Singh Yadav, the once self-styled lieutenant of Lalu, is desperately trying to make the contest a triangular one. He claims sizeable support from his community. Besides, he feels Muslims and upper castes too have veered towards his party after it broke ties with the RJD-LJP.
There are 16 candidates in fray in Pataliputra, a predominantly rural constituency, formed by redrawing the Patna Lok Sabha seat. Of 15.26 lakh voters here, Yadavs account for over 5.5 lakh, followed by Bhumihars (about 2.5 lakh), Muslims (1.5 lakh), Vaishyas (around 3 lakh) and Brahmins (one lakh).