Despite attempts by the Nitish Kumar-led NDA alliance to rake up poor law and order during the 15-year regime of Lalu Prasad, the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan has so far managed to keep its campaign focused on development politics and Tejashwi Yadav’s promise of 10 lakh jobs for the state’s youth. However, the Danapur contest — where sitting BJP MLA Asha Devi Sinha is taking on the RJD’s Ritlal Yadav, one of the men accused of murdering her husband Satyanarayan Sinha in 2003 — threatens to muddle that script.
Adjoining capital Patna, the Danapur Assembly seat, which votes on November 3, was represented by Lalu Prasad in 2000. The BJP’s Asha Sinha has been representing the seat since 2005. Her husband was killed on April 30, 2003, and the case is under trial.
Ritlal, who faces 33 cases of murder, attempt to murder, extortion, and is also charged under provisions of the Arms Act, was jailed in 2010 in a murder case. He has been acquitted in eight of these cases, and is out on bail.
In 2013, Ritlal became the first state politician to face a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
In 2010, Ritlal had contested the Assembly elections as an Independent from jail. While he had lost, he had managed to get 41,000 in the Yadav bastion. The BJP’s Asha Sinha got over 59,000 votes and RJD candidate Sachchidanand only 11,000 votes.
In the 2015 elections, the RJD fielded Rajkishore Yadav, but he lost to the BJP’s Asha Sinha by about 5,000 votes.
In her campaign this time, Sinha is reminding people of her husband’s murder and asking them to vote for ‘peace’. “I am only telling people about aman-chain (peace, law and order) . While the constituency has issues such as water-logging, the main concern is to keep a politician like Ritlal at bay. In this election, I am contesting against my husband’s alleged killer,” Sinha said at a meeting in Danapur on October 31.
The next day, as Ritlal campaigned in the riverine belt, he stuck to his party’s development pitch. He was also joined by Tejashwi Yadav, who has so far avoided sharing the stage with the leader, on the last day of campaigning for the second phase of polls.
Even though Danapur’s voters are largely divided on caste lines, there are questions being raised about Ritlal’s candidature.
Pawan Kumar Gupta, who runs a business in Danapur market, says, “One must not encourage elements like Ritlal. He faces several accusations of land grabbing. We would stay away from such a candidate even if Tejashwi Yadav promises us the moon.” Adds Jitendra Kumar from Patalapur panchayat, “Ritlal’s victory could mean rise of several local hoodlums. Being a fellow Yadav is not good enough.”
Another resident, Avinash Kumar, says that the RJD’s Muslim, Yadav-plus formula may not work in Danapur “because of Ritlal’s image”. In fact, even if Ritlal gets 80-90% of the Yadav votes, the upper castes, OBC Kurmis, Kushwahas and a big chunk of the EBC votes are likely to go in Sinha’s favour.
Ritlal first came into limelight in the early 1990s for he and his men landing all the railway contracts of Danapur division. After Satyanarayan Sinha’s murder, he had gone on the run and had only surrendered in 2010.
However, Ritlal continues to be close to Lalu reportedly, and the RJD supremo had also visited his Danapur house before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to seek support for his daughter and Pataliputra RJD candidate Misa Bharati. In 2014, Lalu had made him the RJD state secretary.
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