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regular-article-logo Saturday, 22 June 2024

Lok Sabha elections: Misa Bharti back in her legacy labyrinth

Patliputra lies calcified in its thinking patterns and preferences; there’s near nothing that has changed in how it speaks. There are pockets that are fiercely loyal to Misa; there are pockets that shun her as fiercely

Sankarshan Thakur Patliputra Published 27.05.24, 05:29 AM
Yadav constituents of Patliputra argue for and against Misa Bharti at a wayside tea shack near Danapur.

Yadav constituents of Patliputra argue for and against Misa Bharti at a wayside tea shack near Danapur. Picture by Sankarshan Thakur.

We could have been in 2014. Or we could have been in 2019. It is tough to tell one memory from another. It is even tougher to tell Patliputra today from Patliputra in 2014 or 2019. This contest is like another carbon copy layer peeling off earlier contests.

Misa Bharti versus Ramkripal Yadav in 2014; Ramkripal wins by less than a lakh votes. Misa Bharti versus Ramkripal Yadav in 2019; Ramkripal wins by less than a lakh votes. Misa Bharti versus Ramkripal Yadav in 2024. Officially, the jury is out on this one, but to take a round of this vast semi-rural constituency abutting Patna is to return to the past twice over.

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Patliputra lies calcified in its thinking patterns and preferences; there’s near nothing that has changed in how it speaks. There are pockets that are fiercely loyal to Misa; there are pockets that shun her as fiercely. Both blasts from the past.

To every person who’ll tell you they are prepared to give Misa a chance, there’s another who’ll begin to argue, but whatever for?

Misa Bharti.

Misa Bharti. File Picture

“Misa has been beaten twice from Patliputra and both times she has vanished after losing. And she is already in the Rajya Sabha, what does she need a Lok Sabha seat for?” Such anger you’ll oft hear expressed. None of that has killed Misa’s appetite to take Patliputra.

This is a Yadav-dominated belt, so it is not a strange ambition for Misa, Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter, to be possessed by. What is strange is that she has a perfect record of loss in an arena whose demographics — Yadavs and Muslims make up a substantive chunk of the vote at more than six lakh — suit the RJD.

Stranger still: when Lalu Prasad contested Patliputra in 2009, he was defeated by friend turned foe Ranjan Prasad Yadav. And even more strange: the man who has twice defeated Misa and may yet again is from the RJD stable, a close aide of Lalu most of his life; Misa probably still addresses Ramkripal as “Chacha”.

Such is the Patliputra conundrum: How does Yadav defeat Yadav in a Yadav land and the winner is never a member of the first family of Yadav politics? Chief reason: when Lalu or his family members (in this case Misa alone) come to claim Patliputra, the index of consolidation against them — the clan — shoots up.

Ramkripal Yadav

Ramkripal Yadav File Picture

The Bhumihars, the other populous group in Patliputra, combine with non-Yadav backward communities, the EBCs, with the sprinkling of other upper caste sections and with sections of Dalits to form a common front.

The Modi sentiment alchemises these into a winner combo. That is how Chacha Ramkripal has beaten Misa again and again. That is how Ranjan Yadav beat Lalu in 2009; although there was no Modi factor at that time, the consolidation of voters to keep the Lalu factor at bay was a real thing. Both Ranjan Yadav and Ramkripal have also been able to nibble at the Yadav vote, of course.

We spent the better part of a steaming day rounding distant corners of Patliputra, trying to probe if anything had changed about how it had voted in past Lok Sabha elections. We found little to suggest the voter sentiment or preference had shifted, no trigger for it.

It’s a prestige fight, Patliputra, but it’s also deathly dull, the contestants and the contest just the same for the third time in a row. In some ways — some, not all — Patliputra is also a metaphor for what’s happening across Bihar, once a live wire battlefield but now fallen sullen.

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