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Generation battle in Pataliputra

A battle of generations is unfolding in Pataliputra where a nugget of wisdom from the RamayanGhar Ka Bhedi Lanka Dhahe (An insider caused Lanka’s destruction) — is haunting the RJD.

In 2009, it was an insider — Ranjan Prasad Yadav, once Lalu’s friend, philosopher and guide — who had defeated the RJD chief from the same parliamentary seat on a JD(U) ticket. Lalu had contested two seats and won from Saran.

“Nobody knows Lalu better than I, who has known him since his college days,” says Ranjan, who is again the JD(U)’s Pataliputra candidate.

Misa Bharti and Ram Kripal Yadav

But the real threat to Misa, the youth face of the RJD, is from another insider — BJP candidate Ram Kripal Yadav, Lalu’s close associate for over two decades and a person who knows the constituency like the back of his hand. Ram Kripal, whom Misa addresses as chacha, has thrice been MP from Patna, as the seat was known before delimitation, and has nurtured Pataliputra for over a decade.

“Ram Kripalji was the most trusted leader of the party. When an insider rebels it creates problems in elections,” says Rampari Yadav, better known as Rampari Mukhiya, Lalu’s man in Danapur.

Pataliputra’s Maner Assembly segment holds the key to the results. Before delimitation, Maner — where the tomb of Sufi saint Yahya Maneri stands — was part of the Ara parliamentary seat. In 2004, Maner gave RJD candidate Kanti Singh a lead of over 50,000 votes, enabling her to win Ara. But in 2009, Maner gave Lalu a lead of just 17,000 votes which got wiped out as Ranjan Yadav led in four of the six Assembly segments. “If Misa has to win, Maner must give her a huge margin,” admits an RJD leader.

Yadavs constitute over 24 per cent of the voters. Add to that 8 per cent Muslim voters and you have a healthy 32 per cent of the votes. Upper castes and other castes add up to 67 per cent, which is what the BJP is banking on.

Ram Kripal has done his homework by getting former Maner MLA Srikant Nirala to join the party. Nirala reportedly has a strong following among Maner’s Yadavs.

The dilemma for Yadav voters in Pataliputra is whether to choose Lalu’s daughter or the man who was for them synonymous with the RJD chief. Some in the constituency’s dominant caste feel Ram Kripal should have stayed on. “He should at least have told Laluji he wanted to contest,” says Vinay Prasad Rai of Singhia village in Maner.

Nagendar Singh, also of Singhia, backs Misa more aggressively. “Laluji is a national leader. What is wrong if he wants to set one seat aside for his daughter,” he asks.

Those who talk of a Narendra Modi “wave” will need to look hard for one in Pataliputra. Caste still dominates the voting pattern, especially among the older generation. “We just know Lalu and will vote for him this time,” asserts 65-year-old Sukhdev Yadav, who resides in the slums of Neelkanth Tola, Gauriya Sthan in Maner block.

But the mood shifts the moment one speaks to the young in their families. Jeetu Kumar, the 18-year-old grandson of Sukhdev, disagrees with his grandfather. “My grandfather has not been able to change his fate. But I desperately want a change,” he says, stressing he will vote for “NaMo”, who has promised them jobs, development and a better future.

This generational shift in support is what is worrying the RJD, though loyalists such as Rampari put up a brave front. “The treatment meted out by Ram Kripal to Misa has angered Yadavs across the state,” says Lalu’s lieutenant. “Misa is the daughter of Bihar and Yadavs will stand solidly behind her this time. In 2009, the JD(U) and BJP, who fought together, defeated Lalu by 20,000 votes. This time, the BJP and JD(U) are fighting separately. Misa will win by a huge margin,” he says. But he accepts, albeit reluctantly, that Ram Kripal will make a “small” inroad into Pataliputra’s Yadav vote base.

Muslims appear split between the RJD and JD(U). “They should vote in one block to defeat the BJP. But every person has his argument in favour of either the JD(U) or the RJD,” laments M.A. Shami, a 75-year-old retired teacher from Singhia village.

A clergyman at the Maner Sharif Mazar admitted the Muslims are indeed divided. “But, I suppose, Ranjan Yadav may get squeezed out in the battle between the BJP and RJD,” he says.

That’s the reason why there is some sympathy for Ranjan Yadav, the sitting MP. “He did everything an MP should do,” says Bengali Singh, an ayurvedic doctor at Vikram, another Assembly segment in the constituency.

Vikram is at the epicentre of “anti-Yadav” politics. It is dominated by Bhumihars, the second largest segment of the constituency. In 2009, they had supported Ranjan Yadav. But this time they are backing Ram Kripal. “Ram Kripalji is much more acceptable. He visits every section of society, be it during a wedding or death or when somebody is in trouble,” says Prem Kumar, a BJP leader in Vikram.

To counter the Bhumihar tilt towards the BJP, the RJD is banking on Independent candidate Indu Bhushan, son of slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Mukhiya. “Indu is going to cut into Bhumihar votes, leaving Ram Kripal stranded,” predicts an RJD leader.

However, BJP leaders scoff at any such suggestion. “Indu Bhushan filed his nomination from Pataliputra suddenly. Everybody knows his motive is to defeat the BJP. He is under pressure from his own caste to pull out,” says BJP leader Atul Kumar.

Issues abound in Pataliputra. Foremost is land erosion by the river Ganga. Several villages by the Ganga have vanished in the past decade, forcing villagers to flee to slums in urban Danapur area. During the NDA regime, Union health minister C.P. Thakur had announced a trauma centre in Vikram. The building and equipment were made available but even after 12 years, the centre is yet to come up for want of technical staff.

“But caste politics makes these issues redundant,” says a Bihta resident.

Pataliputra votes on April 17


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