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|September 29, 1999||
The clash of the Yadavs
Soroor Ahmed in Madhepura
Na sark chaiye, na pul chaiye,
This is Madhepura. The Rashtriya Janata Dal coined that slogan. Now, the Janata Dal-United says the issue of development has been put on the backburner.
The candidates, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and his JD-U counterpart Sharad Yadav are locked in a tough fight. If Laloo Yadav loses, that may be the end of the road for him. Though he is a street fighter and has shown great knack in bouncing back, the defeat would certainly shatter his morale. If Sharad is defeated for the second consecutive time, then his bargaining position within the JD-U would further erode.
Both candidates have lost their earlier sheen. It is Sharad Yadav who is facing a much bigger threat. To knock his former friend-turn-foe out of the political arena, he had to make the biggest compromise -- befriend his arch-rival, the BJP.
Unlike Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Laloo Yadav he has no constituency of his own. After having tried his luck in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh he took political refuge here, courtesy Laloo Yadav.
Madhepura, the birthplace of B P Mandal of the Mandal Commission, was the safe seat allotted to Sharad by Laloo after he lost from Badaun in UP to the BJP's Swami Chinmayanand in May 1991. In fact, it was sheer luck that facilitated his entry into Parliament.
The May 1991 poll had to be countermanded following the murder of an Independent candidate. When the poll was held a couple of months later, the then Janata Dal candidate Dr Ravindra Kumar Ravi, who was also the sitting MP, was asked to withdraw from contest to favour Sharad Yadav.
For this, Sharad always stood by Laloo even when the Janata Dal split and the Samata Party was formed. When the animal husbandry scam was detected he publicly declared that it was a conspiracy hatched against Laloo. However, he parted ways in 1997 when Laloo refused to withdraw from the contest for the organisational election and started behaving, to quote Sharad, in "autocratic manner."
Since the constituency has the highest concentration of Yadavs in Bihar, casteists often boast:
Rome Pope ka
If one goes by the crowds, there need be no doubt that Yadavs support Laloo. Unlike in 1998 they are not in two minds. Realisation has dawned upon them that once Laloo Yadav is defeated the Yadav political domination will be over.
"Since last time the picture was not very clear it was very difficult for us to make a choice between the two Yadavs. Now the way everybody has ganged up against Lalooji has forced us to rethink," said Pradip Yadav, a youth.
The two futile attempts by the Vajpayee government to impose President's rule have also alarmed the Yadavs.
That is not to say that Sharad is without Yadav friends. He enjoys the support of a section of educated Yadavs. However, the presence of Suraj Yadav, a grandson of B P Mandal, as the Nationalist Congress Party candidate, may not augur well for Sharad. Among the contestants, he is the only son of the soil. Suraj is a teacher in a Delhi college and has some influence over the educated class people.
The JD-U president wants to establish himself in the constituency. Local people told this correspondent that he purchased a plot to build a house here so that he would have a better rapport with the voters. The JD-U is trying its level best to woo the non-Yadavs. It hopes to win over the Rajputs, who voted last time for N K Singh, the former special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and author of The Plain Truth. Singh contested on a Samata Party ticket last time and cornered 70,000-odd votes, which ultimately proved decisive -- Laloo defeated Sharad Yadav by 51,983 votes.
However, much water has flown down River Kosi. In the 1998 election, Sharad had an advantage as the Yadav votes split down the middle. Five of the prominent Yadav MLAs of the region were with him; so was the Rajya Sabha MP, Ravindra Kumar Ravi, who in fact was his poll manager. Even the MLA of Madhepura, Parmeshwari Prasad Nirala, was with the JD president.
However, a couple of months after Sharad's defeat, Ravi and all the legislators, save Bijendra Yadav, crossed over to join the RJD. Sharad is facing this handicap in the current election; but he is still relying on the support of Yadav leaders like former Union ministers Devendra Prasad Yadav and Dinesh Chandra Yadav. However, both of them are busy in their own constituencies. While Devendra has thrown his hat in Jhanjharpur, Dinesh is contesting from Saharsa.
Much depends on the voting pattern of Harijans, Muslims, Banias and other backward castes. While Aslam Jawaidan, a government employee, is of the view that some Muslims are likely to throw their weight behind Sharad (as was evident from the recent crossing over to JD-U camp of Noor Alam, a local lawyer, along with his supporters), Zia-ur-Rahman, a wholesale dealer, says that there is no question of Muslims supporting Sharad.
"A handful of turncoats cannot speak for the whole community. True Laloo Yadav did not turn up here, but see how much has Madhepura changed in last one-and-a-half year," he said.
Ram Vilas Paswan is not a big factor here. Harijans, even the Paswans, appear to be inclined towards the RJD. "What has the JD-U leaders done for the Dalits? Look, all these work has been done by Laloo Yadav," said Madan Paswan pointing towards the houses built under a government scheme.
The RJD is trying its level best to seek the support of Banias as Finance Minister Shankar Prasad Tekriwal, who belongs to that caste, has some influence here. He comes from the neighbouring Saharsa.
But the RJD may find it difficult to win the 70,000 to 80,000-strong Rajputs as this time they are deprived of the service of Anand Mohan Singh of the Bihar Peoples Party. Singh had supported Laloo Yadav in return to the support extended to him by the RJD in Seohar parliamentary seat last time. Singh's BPP is now an ally of the BJP.
The JD-U is trying to make the `neglect of constituency' by Laloo Yadav an election issue. "How can Laloo be good for Madhepura when he never visited the place as MP?" asks Sona Yadav, a student.
The RJD supporters are not defensive over this issue. "Everyone knows that Laloo spent so many months in jail during this period. Besides, two attempts to impose President's rule in the state kept him totally preoccupied. Despite this what Laloo did in 13 months is much more than Sharad's contribution as MP for seven years," argues Manoj Yadav, an ardent RJD supporter.
The JD-U leaders, however, contend that many of the projects undertaken by Laloo were in fact initiated by Sharad Yadav. "The credit for building roads and stadium, and the establishment of B P Mandal University should go to Sharad," said Kameshwar Kumar, a trader.
Madhepura is different in many ways. Being the cradle of socialist movement and birthplace of B P Mandal it has always remained in limelight. And unlike many other places the crime-rate is less notwithstanding the fact that it borders Nepal. It has hardly witnessed any communal violence though 11 per cent of the population are Muslims. This may be the reason that the BJP hardly exists here.
"We hate BJP because it encourages communalism and disturbs rural peace," said Sadanand, an elderly farmer.
The Yadavs here are well aware of Gandhari's famous curse in the epic Mahabharat, which resulted in that community's destruction. "True the Yadavs are pitted against each other. But they will not indulge in any act of self-destruction. Any wrong move may prove politically suicidal for them," said Krishna Kumar Singh, a political commentator.
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