| Voters at a polling booth in Madhepura town to exercise their franchise on Wednesday. The constituency is a matter of prestige for chief minister Nitish Kumar, as party president Sharad Yadav is seeking a re-election from the seat. Picture by Devashish Bose |
Sharad Yadav on Wednesday termed Congress and the BJP “body and soul of each other” after casting his vote in Madhepura. The JD(U) chief and Lok Sabha candidate exercised his franchise at the Adarsh Vidyalaya polling booth around 10am.
After voting, Sharad told reporters that the media was in the “clutches of the corporate world”.
“They claim that there is a Narendra Modi wave. I do not see a Modi wave here,” he said, stressing that his party had snapped ties with the BJP in the interest of the country. “The BJP and the JD(U) have different views on Ram Mandir, uniform civil code and Article 370. There is no difference between Congress and the BJP. One is the body and the other is its soul,” he said.
However, Sharad tried to revive the “Mandal days” saying: “I undertook the Mandal Rath Yatra against the Kamandal Yatra (by L.K. Advani).”
Polling was brisk in Madhepura right from the morning. There were long queues outside every polling booth. “It’s like the people want to send a message,” said a voter, swearing that he had never had to stand in a long queue like the present one. “I thought I would finish this job first before doing the house chores,” said Vandana Rai, a 58-year-old homemaker of Birfi Mohalla of Madhepura town who had brought all the female members of the house to vote. She said that the men would come and vote after they return.
|Residents of Samastipur show
their inked fingers after casting
their votes on Wednesday. (PTI)
Madhepura voted aggressively, keeping ahead of the state average. By 4 pm, it was above 52 per cent when the state average reached just 50. By the end of polling, it was 60 per cent.
However, Sharad appears to be having a tough time convincing voters to back him because of his national status.
“Why should I vote for Sharad? He may be a national leader but he has done nothing for Madhepura. We are still among the most under-developed districts of Bihar despite being represented by political titans — Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav and the late BP Mandal,” said 35-year-old Suman Kumar Sinha, a local businessman.
Despite having represented Madhepura four times in the Lok Sabha, Sharad has failed to make the local connect — either with leaders or the local people. “Sharad has been winning because of political conditions but not because of his national personality. Even when he defeated Lalu Prasad in 1999, there was an anti-Lalu wave in Bihar,” said a BJP leader.
One of his main rivals this election, Pappu Yadav of the RJD, remained busy at his office in the town only venturing out for half-an-hour to visit a couple of booths. Pappu has also taken a virtual oath to defeat his friend-turned-foe Sharad Yadav.
In Saharsa, now a part of Madhepura parliamentary seat, the reaction wavered between Pappu and the BJP. “We need a local MP like Pappu. He is always available when the people want him,” said Ramdev Yadav, a 52-year-old farmer.
Some voters declared that they would vote for “change”. However, there were very few takers for the JD(U) chief who has represented this constituency four times. “He has done nothing for the constituency. He surfaces only during the elections,” said Sharad Jha, a 21-year-old voter at a booth near the local government hospital.
Sharad is locked in a triangular contest with Pappu and Vijay Singh Yadav of the BJP. While the Yadavs and Muslims have voted as a block for the RJD, it is the other votes — Baniyas, Brahmins, Rajputs and EBCs — who are deciding the fate of Sharad and the other contestants. The voting pattern indicated by local politicians suggests that this citadel of Mandal politics may throw up a surprise.