Lalu Prasad Yadav after being convicted in fodder scam was barred from contesting any elections but it did not deter this senior politician a bit. He and his party RJD decided to field Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi for the Lok Sabha constituency of Saran, Bihar to fight against BJP and JD(U) in 2009, RJD had got only 4 seats in the Lok Sabha Elections but political analysts are predicting that RJD will come back with a bang this election.
Out of the 6 phases of elections in Bihar, 4 are already done with a good voter turnout in this state. The 3rd and the 4th phase are said to have turned the tables in the favour of Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar. Everything seems to be in his favour, be it Muslim voters or Yadav voters, and be it opposing Narendra Modi head on or targeting Nitish Kumar.
As per an article in Indian Express where Santosh Singh asks, what is it basically that has changed. Is Lalu blocking a “Modi surge” in Bihar because the BJP has not been able to sustain the so-called “Modi wave” despite a series of Modi rallies? Have old caste and community calculations that Bihar is notorious for come into play again? Hints to those answers may lie in Lalu’s relaxed and upbeat demeanour during these polls, with supporters claiming that they have never seen him in such a positive mood in nine years.
After a gap of 5 years, Lalu Yadav is again in a regaining position, looking calm and composed like never before. The opinion polls by various media platforms did not give RJD more than 9 seats, but now even they are realising that RJD will get at least 15 out of the 27 seats on which it is contesting. Riding high on his victim-hood image after the fodder scam in which he had to spend 2 months in jail, Lalu Yadav is playing the emotion card with the people in which he is getting successful also. Six months later after the imprisonment, Lalu’s party appears to have bounced back, positioning itself as the main challenger to Narendra Modi’s BJP in the 40 Lok Sabha seats of Bihar.
Trends emerging from the first three phases of polling in the state suggest that the Muslims, who comprise 17% of the voters in the state, have rallied behind the RJD-Congress-NCP alliance, and the Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) combine is propelling the party’s surge, replacing chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U) as the main “secular” force in the state. A dedicated politician, Lalu Yadav has tried to reach every nook and corner of the state to get the support of the people, campaigning and rallying every day.
This back on scene jump by Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar has many factors behind it like the most important reason being the consolidation of Muslim Yadav votes. The M-Y factor is giving the much needed push to this party, with 18 percent of the Muslim population strongly backing him and the 13 percent Yadavs of Bihar also pitching their support for this party in 12 constituencies. As Santosh Singh writes, although Muslims laud Nitish’s good work, they feel he faces some anti-incumbency and that Lalu stands a better chance against Modi. Muslims are strongly in support of RJD candidate MAA Fatimi. The goo voter turnout in these constituencies is also believed to be the reason of Muslim support who want to back the RJD against BJP’s Kirti Azad.
Then comes the Modi wave in Bihar, which the political parties have clearly denied that there is any such wave. The long duration of the polls is also said to have an impact on the voters psyche. Santosh Singh in Indian Express writes that with several BJP candidates also facing anti-incumbency, sustaining the momentum of the “Modi wave” has been hard work. Modi has had to address public meetings in every phase and at times, three to four places in a day, plus Bihar will never grow out of its politics centred on caste and community.
For Lalu Yadav, what has turned Muslims in his favour has a lot to do with his anti-Modi speeches and rallies where he attacked BJP’s PM candidate fiercely. Lalu Yadav has been presenting himself as one man in Bihar who is Modi’s main challenger on the secularism issue, which has definitely worked for him.
Despite of the image of a convict who was in jail for 2 months, Lalu has been able to turn this issue into his favour only playing a victim card. His jail life seems to have garnered sympathy for him among his followers who believe that he was an innocent. The Yadavs have taken it personally and want him to restore the sense of pride and standing in the administration. Even his wife, who is contesting Lok Sabha Elections, agreed to this and said that this time they have the sympathy of the people that will work for them.
His state rival Nitish Kumar’s fallout with NDA has also added to the supporter list of Lalu. Like Santosh Singh says, Nitish’s advisors had calculated that EBCs and a section of the Muslims could give the party a winning social combination after it parted ways with NDA. Lalu, who went to jail and whose party split, looks to have got it automatically only because the JD(U) and BJP are no longer together with that wining social combination.
BJP has pitted its national spokesperson and former Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy against Rabri Devi in Saran. Rudy had won this seat twice – in 1996 and 1999 but will he be able to retain the seat or RJD will take away the constituency from BJP’s hands is still a question.