| Nitish Kumar greets NDA chairperson Atal Bihari Vajpayee during a rally at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Wednesday. BJP chief L.K. Advani stands on the left. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Mirganj, Nov. 16: Rabri Devi may have earned the sobriquet “queen” and her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav “king” of benighted Bihar. But the “royal” couple faces a rebellion in the family.
Against the wishes of his sister and brother-in-law, Rabri Devi’s brother and legislative council member Subhas Yadav has fielded his wife Renu as an Independent candidate in Mirganj, which has gone into the share of the Congress in the division of seats.
So, while colourful posters of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi calling for unity among UPA partners adorn Laloo Prasad’s house in Phulwaria, his ancestral village, Subhas is moving around with his wife in Selarkala, his and his sister’s ancestral village barely 3 km away.
Both Phulwaria and Selarkala fall in Mirganj, the home of the “first couple”.
Mirganj, in Gopalganj district, mirrors the meteoric rise of the once poor families of Laloo Prasad and Rabri Devi in what used to be an area dominated by upper-caste Bhumihars and Brahmins.
Most family members of Laloo Prasad and Rabri Devi have risen to “key positions” during the 15-year reign of the couple. Laloo Prasad’s elder brother Gulab is the pramukh (elected head) of Phulwaria, which has now earned the status of a block from a sleepy and nondescript village.
Sadhu, another brother of Rabri Devi, is an MP, while her father Sheoprasad Yadav, who ran a desi liquor shop, has become a village headman.
“But the family members’ ambition refuses to stay in check. Subhas is seeking votes for his wife who has nothing to show by way of social or political contributions. We had not seen even her face before she became a candidate,” says a teashop vendor in Line Bazaar, a small market near Selarkala.
“I repeatedly asked Subhas not to field Renu for it will send a wrong message,” says Sheoprasad, who feels his son and daughter-in-law are playing a “destructive” game. “But they spurned my advice.”
Rabri Devi’s septuagenarian father says he is “helpless”. “Rabri and Laloo are my daughter and son-in-law. And Subhas and Renu are my son and daughter-in-law. It is heart-wrenching to see them fighting among themselves.”
On Sunday, Subhas and Renu travelled in fancy cars from Selarkala to Line Bazaar, Bathua and Mirganj soliciting votes for Renu. The same day, Laloo Prasad also addressed an election meeting in Mirganj bazaar and made an impassioned appeal for votes in favour of the Congress nominee, Babuddin Khan, to “defeat the communal forces”.
Residents say the only thing Renu can do is cut into the UPA’s vote. “Take it from me. She will forfeit her deposit,” says Jitendra Singh, a villager in Selarkala. “The NDA nominee, Ramsevak Singh, will win the seat.”
Despite his emergence as the “Raja of Bihar”, Laloo Prasad has seldom enjoyed meaningful political popularity in Gopalganj. Except in the 1995 Assembly polls, Gopalganj has seldom stood behind him.
In the last polls earlier this year, the Rashtriya Janata Dal managed to win only in Bhore and lost in all the other five seats in Gopalganj.
With RJD-Congress nominees battling with their backs to the wall in Katya, Gopalganj, Barauli, Baikunthpur and Mirganj, observers say the story is set to remain the same this time, too.
The RJD’s only hope is Bhore, thanks to the popularity and honest image of its candidate Anil Kumar.