The absence of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad during campaigning in Bihar for the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls was a "very big challenge", but the party has put up a "good fight" nonetheless, his son Tej Pratap Yadav said.
Known for his signature one-liners and trenchant wit, this was for the first time, Prasad was not present in the elections as he is serving sentences in connection with fodder scam cases.
The former Bihar chief minister is currently admitted at a hospital in Jharkhand capital Ranchi on account of his poor health.
The "lantern (RJD poll symbol) will be lit" at many places in the state on May 23, Tej Pratap said, though he felt that the result would be "surprising".
"My father has always been the voice of the poor and the downtrodden and that is the legacy he handed over to me and my brother (Tejashwi Yadav), to fight for them and to bring equality and justice in society," the RJD leader and former Bihar health minister said, ahead of counting of votes on Thursday.
"His (Lalu's) physical absence in this election was, indeed a very big challenge for us," Tej Pratap said in an interview.
Asked, what is the number of seats the 'mahagathbandhan (grand alliance)' in Bihar is eyeing in the just-concluded polls, Prasad's elder son said that "the numbers could swing as voters' mood is also not quite clear at the moment".
"We (the RJD) have done our work and reached out to the people and made them aware of the economic and political situation in Bihar and in the country. If fortune is in our favour, we should get 20-23 seats as per our preparations," Tej Pratap said.
The Mahua MLA, however, said he himself was on the "horns of a dilemma" as far as the number of seats the party could win was concerned, adding that it will have a "element of surprise" this time.
Tej Pratap also said he was hopeful that his sister Misa Bharti would be able to pull off a win from the Pataliputra constituency and claimed that the people are "unhappy" with sitting Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ram Kripal Yadav.
Elections were held in Bihar in all seven phases, from Gaya on April 11 to Patna Sahib on May 19 spanning 40 Lok Sabha seats.
As per seat sharing in the 'mahagathbandhan' in the state, the RJD fought on 19 seats, Congress on nine, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party on five, Vikassheel Insan Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha three each. One seat was left by RJD for the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Lenninist.
RJD banks hugely on Prasad's legacy as his riveting speeches during poll campaigns are known to energise voters and attract mediapersons in big number.
"Laluji would talk to people of all strata and sit and eat with people of all caste. He took all communities along. In fact, he would make us brothers sit and teach the way to reach out to the masses.
"He would ask us to fold hands in front of people as 'janta is our malik', tell us to wear kurta-pyjama, mostly khadi, and talk in local parlance as much as possible to better connect with the masses," Tej Pratap said.
The RJD leader said he and Tejashwi have to merely keep the field "irrigated" that was "tilled by my father".
Notwithstanding exit polls forecasts, Tej Pratap hit out at the BJP, saying it is a "party of businessmen (vyapariyon ki party)" who have "done nothing" for farmers or youths in the five years of its government.
"Why did farmers protest at Jantar Mantar, what about the Rs 15 lakh in each account and jobs promised to youths before 2014 polls? BJP has not fulfilled any of its promises," he said.
Tej also rebuffed reports of any rift between him and his brother Tejashwi, the leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly.
"There is no rift between me and my brother. I challenge anyone who can prove that. In fact, my blessings are always with him and I will follow whatever my father tells me to... In fact, I have always stood like a shield whenever someone tried to attack my brother," he said.
Asked what role he foresaw for himself on the party, Tej Pratap said, "Janta (the people) will decide that and whatever role my father gives me in the party, I will take that one."
Responding to media buzz on him taking to spirituality which is overshadowing his political career, he said, "I am political and spiritual".
"I am a devotee of Krishna and bhakt of Shiva. I go to Mathura and Vrindavan to get more energy. Some people get that energy sitting under a peepul tree, some get it by stepping into a pond in a village. But, it doesn't mean, I am less involved in politics now because I am more spiritual," Tej Pratap asserted.
The RJD MLA went to Vrindavan, a day after casting his vote in Patna, and said, this election has also laid a "very good foundation" for the party's preparations for the Bihar Assembly polls next year.
"Bihar elections will be a direct fight between RJD and BJP, as Janata Dal-United will not be in reckoning by then, as it has joined hands with the saffron party to it own undoing," Tej Pratap claimed.