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A Yadav dilemma in Bihar: support Lalu or Narendra Modi

Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times  Madhubani, February 18, 2014
First Published: 12:43 IST(18/2/2014) | Last Updated: 17:52 IST(18/2/2014)

For forty years, his father was the mukhiya of Mohanpur village in Madhubani, the heart of Mithilanchal in north Bihar. He gave up a successful transport business in Darbhanga and returned home to get elected as the new mukhiya of his ancestral village. But today, Ram Kumar Yadav struggles with a political dilemma shared by many in his community.

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"70% Yadavs are still with Lalu Prasad. There is sympathy after his jail stint. In a country with 175,000 lakh crore worth corruption scams, why lock in someone for an old scam of 500 crore?" asks Yadav, who is with the Rashtriya Janata Dal. But he says there is a change from the past, where almost 100% of the community backed Lalu. "There is a 30% dent, and that is because many Yadavs feel that Narendra Modi must be tested once." He claims this is because Modi does not have a family, and there is little chance of him accumulating wealth for his relatives.

Yadav's dilemma is more intense because he has been, for a long time, associated with Baba Ramdev, who is himself of Yadav origin. "I have even gone to Haridwar. And Ramdev Maharaj is totally with Modi." An additional factor for him is that the elected BJP MP from Madhubani, Hukum Deo Yadav, has been supportive. "He has helped sanction four roads in my area and cooperated each time I have asked for support. So there is no reason to go against BJP."

"There is confusion," he says wistfully.

At the Rampatti crossing, Dayanand Yadav – a hardware shop-owner – joins in. "I used to vote for RJD but will go with Modi for three reasons. One, he is a good leader. Two, he is anti Muslim. And three, he has developed the state," he says. Yadavs and Muslims have had a mixed relationship – of intense conflict, but also political partnership in an alliance led by Lalu.

Some distance away, at the Ranti crossing, Mahakant Yadav of the RJD admits that there is a churning in the community, with a section keen to test Modi once. "I am with Laluji, but the younger lot is getting restless. My estimate is 25%, one-fourth of Yadav vote, will go to BJP this time."

It is not only Lalu but Nitish Kumar too who has a reason to be worried. Arun Kumar Bhandari of Mali caste, which falls in the extremely backward class category, the mainstay of Kumar's social coalition, runs a small shop in the Muslim-dominated Ranti.

He told HT, "My formula is simple. I will vote BJP for the Centre, and Nitish for the state. He won't become PM, so why waste a vote on him? But we need him in Bihar." Bhandari was a poll agent for the coalition last time. This time, he says he will be a BJP agent in 2014, and JD (U) agent in 2015 assembly polls.

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