Chhapra, Oct. 1: Former chief minister Lalu Prasad has lost in the fodder scam legal battle, but his core support base is still intact.
The RJD chief is behind bars since yesterday. But a journey from Vaishali to Gopalganj via Saran, Maharajganj and Siwan, and conversations with a cross-section of voters revealed that his support base — mainly the Yadavs, Muslims and a large section of upper caste Rajputs he has recently won over — would not desert him soon.
While travelling through the 150-km-stretch on the north of the Ganga, it seemed Lalu’s conviction would hardly weaken his core support base in the region — a stronghold of the RJD. Three of the five Lok Sabha seats — Vaishali, Saran, Maharajganj — in the area are still in its kitty.
“It is time to regroup and support Lalu in a big way. We have lost hope in (chief minister) Nitish Kumar. He has been a big flop in his second stint (2010-2015),” said Upendra Singh, an advocate at Vaishali court.
“Nitish broke alliance with the BJP just to fulfil his hidden desire to become the Prime Minister. See, the governance has gone for a toss: roads are cracking; children fed with adulterated food are dying in schools; crime has grown,” he added.
The anti-incumbency factor after the nearly eight-year-old Nitish’s rule appears to have kept intact or has even galvanised Lalu’s traditional support base. There are also obvious signs of sympathy gaining grounds in the region in Lalu’s favour in the wake of his conviction.
Most of the people belonging to the upper castes The Telegraph interacted with preferred Lalu than Nitish. “Lalu only used some harsh words about us (upper castes)… Nitish to kalam chala kar humko barbad kar diye (Lalu just said some harsh words, Nitish used pen to destroy us),” said Prashant Pathak, a Brahmin at Siwan.
Pathak might have been suggesting the “special favours” Nitish has extended to the extremely backward classes, Mahadalits and Muslims by reserving local bodies’ seats and providing pecuniary assistances to them.
Contrary to the vibe that Nitish would get whole-hearted support of Muslims after snapping ties with the BJP on the Narendra Modi issue, the largest minority community members in these parts of the state are still solidly behind Lalu.
“We voted for Lalu’s nominee in Maharajganj (Prabhunath Singh). We will keep on voting for Lalu’s nominees in the polls to follow,” said Mubaraq Ansari of Muslim-dominated Fatehpur village in Gopalganj.
“Nitish is talking about wearing topi and tikka now. Show us a single picture of he wearing gol topi and hosting Iftar party when he was the railway minister (1999-2004),” he added.
The Fatehpur residents — around 500 belonging to the minority community — were unanimous in asserting that they had no reason to desert Lalu.
Suggested that Nitish would be in a better position to counter Modi in the Congress’s company, Anisur Rahman said: “We are not opportunists. We shall not support him simply because he has left Modi’s company. It is hard for us to desert Lalu, who has stood behind us like a rock all through and is in a crisis at present.”