A seat that never agrees with the rest of Bihar

Som Prakash had barely stopped being a policeman when he became an independent candidate.

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Obra has a rebel streak in it: the seat, in Aurangabad district, has not sent an MLA to the ruling alliance the past four elections. In 1995 and 2000, it elected a CPI(ML) candidate. In 2005, when the RJD was overthrown, it chose an RJD legislator. Last election, it elected a former police sub-inspector.

Som Prakash had barely stopped being a policeman when he became an independent candidate. The question whether he had submitted his resignation before submitting his nomination had to be settled in court.

Rajendra Prasad Yadav of the Yadav-Dalit hamlet of Manar village recounts how they connected money for Prakash.

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“We thought he deserved to lead us.” Now, Kumar and several others this newspaper spoke to feel Prakash is losing. “He went missing after he won,” said Yadav.

On Wednesday, Prakash’s newly formed Swaraj Party organised the largest and loudest bike rally in Obra town.

Prakash is a Yadav and his presence worries the RJD, which once considered the seat safe. Koeris, Yadavs, Bhumihars and Muslims are the most populous groups but their vote is fractured.

“It is a three-cornered fight, but there are candidates eating into the votes of all castes,” said Yadav of Maner.

The RJD cannot be assured of the Koeri vote because of its alliance with the JD(U). Obra is in Karakat, Upendra Kushwaha’s Lok Sabha seat, and he has fielded a Koeri candidate. But the CPI(ML) candidate, two-time MLA Rajaram Singh, too is a Koeri.

The CPI(ML) does not have support among the Yadavs but can still spoil the RJD’s party. “We have a number of Muslims with us. The Muslims believe RJD candidate Birendra Kumar was behind a scuffle in Daudnagar locality earlier this year,” said Ajay Kumar Mehta of the CPI (ML).

A resident of Daudnagar said the RJD would not be guaranteed all Muslim votes: “I will stick with the RJD, but the poorer Muslims are inclined to go to the teen tara (three stars on the CPI[ML] flag).”

Anand Mohan Sharma of Manar, meanwhile, said, “We Bhumihars will do anything to defeat the RJD.” The Bhumihars were willing to vote even for the CPI(ML) on two occasions to keep the RJD out. That strategy helped Rajaram Singh of the CPI(ML).

The Bhumihars too are keeping their fingers crossed. Abhimanyu Sharma of the NCP wanted the RLSP ticket and wants revenge after being spurned. Local newspapers have reported a meeting of Bhumihar “intellectuals” calling for a rejection of the RLSP.

The EBCs seem inclined to vote for the RJD because of ally Nitish Kumar. The Dalits are a different proposition: the CPI(ML) considers them its own but the JD(U) and the NDA claim they have chunks of that vote.

At Manar village, after declaring that he had no personal interest in the election, Mithilesh Pandey, a Brahmin, declared he would vote the RLSP, “because the BJP is our party”. Then he went on to reduce the confusion to a binary: “Whatever happens, either a Yadav or a Koeri will win.”