Personalities have always defined poll clashes in Chapra, headquarters in central Bihar’s Saran district, during the past two decades.
The story hasn’t changed this time too. Despite the strong presence of the district’s badey bhaiyaji (the big brother, literally), RJD chief Lalu Prasad is not in the ring this time after his conviction in a fodder scam case. But his wife, former CM Rabri Devi is.
The stamp of Prasad in the constituency that he has nursed since 1977 as a young MP has not faded. This time, he is doing a 1997 all over again — banking on Rabri to defeat BJP poster boy Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
Ramji Singh, a local businessman, said, “It’ll surely be a fight between Bhabi (Rabri) and Rudy (devar) in Chapra. But bade bhiaya is the man who is pulling the strings.”
In fact, locals believe it is a proxy battle between Prasad and Rudy, who have faced each other in 2004 and 2009. Prasad won both the times. And that’s why, to keep his winning records unblemished, he arrived at Chapra on March 18 just after inking the deal with the Congress.
He announced Rabri’s name as the party’s nominee in a clear message it was his honour that is at stake. He has already addressed a meeting in Garkha, talking about saving secularism and Rudy’s bid to ride high on the Modi wave.
“I will take my chopper to Chapra at the last day and create a ripple,” he said during his road show while convincing his Yadavs for a tough fight. But if Prasad is planning a full-scale caste battle in Saran, the BJP is not shying away either.
For Rudy, whose journey in Saran has always been bumpy, it’s a battle for higher stakes. A win could get him a cabinet position — if Narendra Modi gets to form the government — as one of the most influential youngsters. A loss, on the other hand, will ensure a longer stint for him as an articulate bystander.
Rudy is mobilising the upper castes, including the Rajputs, besides trying to rope in a sizeable share of the EBC and Dalit votes, showing off Modi’s EBC background and the tie-up with the Lok Janshakti’s party. The Paswans, too, have a sizeable vote share in the constituency.
The aviator-turned-politician is also playing the son-of-the-soil’ card and is projecting Rabri as a proxy candidate, not fit to be an MP. RJD’s national spokesperson Manoj Jha countered: “Rabri Devi has evolved as a mature politician. She is no longer the shy homemaker she was in 1997.”
Incidentally, those keeping a watch on political matrix of Saran say apart from the Yadavs constituting around 3.5 lakh of the electorate, followed by the Rajputs (around 3 lakh), the Muslims would finally be the decisive force with around 1.45 lakh votes.