Madhepura, on the banks of the Kosi, would be a good place to be if one wants to observe what has been called the Modi Wave.
The constituency fulfills a number of criteria required for a “Wave”; the most important of them being that the BJP is contesting there for the first time, as former alliance partner JD(U) kept the seat for itself. Another is that a weak BJP candidate is up against two strong ones. In fact, Vijay Kumar Kushwaha does not even have raw caste numbers in his favour, while Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) and Rajesh Ranjan, aka Pappu Yadav of the RJD – five and four-time MPs respectively – are from the dominant Yadav community. To top it all, Madhepura is yet to elect a non-Yadav to the Lok Sabha.
Vijay Kumar is the husband of Renu Kushwaha, JD(U) MLA and former industries minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet, who has since been suspended. Though BJP workers say he has always been the force behind his wife, Vijay Kumar has never contested an election. Word on the street is that former NDA Convenor Sharad Yadav, who maintains good relations with BJP leaders, lobbied hard to ensure the party fielded a weak candidate against him.
The best laid plans of Sharad and the JD(U) however, were spoilt by BJP cadres, who sprung to life. The JD(U) – whose national president’s winning formula has been a combination of the upper caste Hindu votes that would have otherwise gone to the BJP and some Yadav votes apart from the traditional JD(U) base – had ensured that the BJP never had an organisational structure in Madhepura. However, one of the visible effects of the hype around Narendra Modi has been the activation of cadres – evident from RSS sakhas springing to life – and a JD(U) leader in Madhepura recounted how he returned from seat-allocation talks in Patna to find a virulent BJP organisation in the constituency.
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Outgoing MP Sharad Yadav, even his well-wishers admit, is fighting a double anti-incumbency in Madhepura. The odds are then on RJD’s Pappu Yadav, who has the Yadavs and Muslims with him, to win. However, there is a strong anti-Pappu feeling in the constituency among caste Hindus – especially the trading communities – who have traditionally suffered under the levy-collection activities of Pappu’s gang.
The JD(U)’s hopes lie with the women, EBCs and mahadalits of the constituency. The BJP is confident of luring them, too. As the day progresses, Kushwaha’s chase of Pappu could be a good barometer of the BJP’s performance in Bihar.