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|November 24, 1998||
Laloo going strong with Muslim-Yadav votes
Akhileshwar Singh in Patna
It is Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav versus others in all the assembly constituencies barring one, Purnea, where by-elections will be held tomorrow.
The Opposition tried its best to break his MY (Muslim-Yadav) combination, and faces an uphill task.
To start with, the Sheohar seat became vacant after Raghunath Jha resigned and joined the Samata Party. Jha, who is the Bihar Samata president and the party nominee for the seat, feels the going could be tough for him.
''I won this seat five times in a row, including in 1985 when there was a Congress wave all over the country. But I do realise for the first time that I am really fighting an election,'' a visibly nervous Jha told journalists close to him.
''He is relying more on his might than the voters' support," said a police official. ''The police have issued warrants against three trusted followers who were preparing bombs at his residence. One bomb exploded, killing two men there.''
Besides the MY combination RJD nominee Thakur Ratneshwar Rana is expected to garner a great many votes from his Rajput caste.
As a minister in the Laloo Yadav and Rabri Devi ministries, Jha used to claim there would be bloodshed in Bihar if the RJD chief is sent to jail. But that won't make the Rajputs love him more considering they were pretty pleased that Laloo Yadav was in a soup. Jha had earlier won due to the Rajput vote; now it may all go Rana's way.
The Adapur constituency -- held by state minister Brij Bihari Prasad till his murder -- is all set to witness a triangular contest involving the RJD, Congress and JD nominees.
This seat is crucial to the RJD because it to be seen here whether those of the MY combination would cast their vote in favour of the party nominee, who is of the Baniya caste.
Chief Minsiter Rabri Devi has asked the Yadavs to vote for the asli Yadav, that is, her husband, and not Congress candidate Hari Shanker Yadav, whom she branded a nakli Yadav. Birendra Prasad of the Communist Party of India-Marxist is also making his presence felt here.
With the Congress fielding a ''dummy'' candidate to make it easy for RJD nominee Annapurna Yadav, there is a likelihood that the Koderma seat will involve a direct fight between the RJD and the BJP. The BJP has fielded Ramesh Singh.
The result here will have political fall-out because the constituency falls under the Jharkhand region. If the RJD wins the seat, it will be seen as a rejection of the proposal for a separate Vananchal state.
The main issue here is Vananchal. For two terms the seat has been represented by Laloo Yadav's nominee, the late Ramesh Prasad Yadav, who died a few months ago.
The Purnea assembly seat is a walkover for Communist Party of India-Marxist nominee Madhavi Sarkar, widow of slain legislator Ajit Sarkar.
A dozen nominees, including Sudhir Prasad Yadav of the BJP and Amarnath Tiwary of the Congress are far behind in the race. The RJD has not fielded its candidate here. Laloo Yadav has apparently ordered from his jail that his men back the widow so that the relations between his party and the CPI-M become stronger.
Besides, he knows the dalits and downtrodden whom Ajit Sarkar had helped in his lifetime are unlikely to vote for anyone else other than Madhavi Sarkar.
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