Two views from land with Lalu label

'Yadav terror' cry in Chhapra

By J.P. Yadav in Chhapra
  • Published 26.10.15
Kushwaha and Nonia caste members at Saidpur village in the Parsa 
Assembly segment. Pictures by JP Yadav

In the Chhapra region, the "Lalu land" that lies across the rivers Ganga and Gandak from Patna, Nitish Kumar is feeling the pressure of what the voters here call "Yadav aatank (terror)".

Rajesh Chaurasia, a twenty-something resident of Dighwara village, believes the BJP is the favourite from the Chhapra region.

"Let me tell you, most Chaurasias and many other castes here will vote for the BJP, if only because they fear a return of the Yadav terror," he said.

References to "Yadav terror" punctuate conversations with people from the non-Yadav backward classes and the upper castes, their memories seared with images of the "jungle raj" that obtained under Lalu-Rabri before Nitish assumed charge in the winter of 2005.

"There used to be daylight robbery. Even sweets bought for a wedding wouldn't be spared. The ordeal ended under Nitish, there's peace now," said Pramod Kushwaha at Saidpur village in the Parsa Assembly constituency.

If the Nitish-Lalu Prasad "grand alliance" is to withstand the widespread fear of "Yadav terror" among the voters on the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief's home turf, the chief minister's performance record is its best bet.

Lalu Prasad had first been elected to the Lok Sabha from Chhapra constituency (now Saran) in 1977 during the Janata Party wave. He later won from the constituency in 2004 and 2009.

As Saran MP, he was railway minister between 2004 and 2009. His victory margin had thinned by 2009, and he later lost his membership of Parliament following his conviction in the fodder scam.

In last year's Lok Sabha elections, Lalu's wife Rabri Devi contested from Saran but lost to the BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Rabri had also lost from the Sonepur Assembly seat, which falls in Saran, in 2010.

A government school outside Saidpur village. The midday meal for each weekday is written on the wall.

These defeats show how Lalu Prasad and his family are losing support in the region, perhaps because of the non-Yadav backward classes' dismay at what they describe as Yadav " dadagiri" (high-handedness).

"Nitish is chief minister number one for us, he has done a lot of good. But many of our caste members may still not vote for the Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate here," said Mithilesh Kushwaha at Saidpur.

Conversations with Saidpur's sizeable Kushwaha population suggest they may not follow their brethren in Jehanabad, Arwal and certain other south Bihar pockets in backing the grand alliance in large numbers.

Having appointed a Kushwaha (Upendra) from a coalition partner as a central minister, the BJP had hoped to get this group back into its fold in a big way. But feedback from the first two phases of polling suggests the Kushwahas may not have voted for the National Democratic Alliance as heavily as expected.

Saran's Kushwahas, though, could buck the trend, with most of them voting for the BJP although Nitish's governance record can attract some of the votes from the community to the grand alliance.

Parsa is witnessing a keen clash between two Yadavs. The Rashtriya Janata Dal's Chandrika Rai, son of former chief minister Daroga Prasad Rai, is pitted against the Lok Janshakti Party's Chottelal Rai.

Chottelal is the incumbent who defected from the Janata Dal United to BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan's party after the seat fell in the Rashtriya Janata Dal's share.

Although Yadavs and Muslims make up a sizeable chunk of voters here, they cannot ensure a Rashtriya Janata Dal victory if all the other castes join hands and oppose the grand alliance. Besides, the Yadav votes are likely to get divided between the two Yadav candidates.

In this keen contest, voters from Nitish's caste of Kurmis can tilt the balance in the grand alliance's favour.

"The Kurmis have a good presence here: they will decide who wins," said Yogesh Prasad, a teacher.

The Kurmis have never voted for Lalu Prasad's party but they could do so this time as Nitish has joined hands with his former rival.

In adjoining Amnour, the Yadavs are in no mood to return the favour to Janata Dal United candidate Montoo Singh, a Kurmi.

Montoo does anyway not seem the main contender. The battle appears to be between the BJP's Satrudhan Tiwary, better known as "Chokar Baba", and Independent candidate Sunil Rai.

"We won't vote for Sunil, and Montoo's attitude towards the Yadavs has never been good," said Sriram Rai, a Yadav from Dadanpur village.

Among the Extremely Backward Classes, if the Nonias appear to be favouring the grand alliance, the substantial Mallah population seems to be tilting towards the BJP.

"We will vote for the BJP's Chokar Baba," said Musafir Sahni, indicating the popularity of Tiwary, a Bhumihar.

An equally keen contest awaits Sonepur where incumbent Vinay Kumar Singh, a BJP candidate and a Rajput, is taking on the Rashtriya Janata Dal's Ramanuj Prasad.

Prasad is banking on a division of Rajput votes, since three other members of the community are contesting as Independents.

In Chhapra town, the BJP is the clear favourite among the traders, who fear a return of "goonda raaj" if the grand alliance wins.

Former MP Prabhunath Singh's son Randhir Singh of the Rashtriya Janata Dal is pitted against a new BJP face, C.N. Gupta. Prabhunath is finding it tough to split the upper caste Rajput votes, though.

In Saran, at least, the BJP seems to be sitting pretty. Party insiders said they were banking on the third and fourth phases.

 Chhapra region votes on October 28