In Bihar’s Madhepura, an adage is told and retold every election season — “Rome Pope Ka, Madhepura Gope ka (Rome belongs to Pope and Madhepura to a Gope (Yadav)”.
In this election, Madhepura is set to see a triangular contest between three Yadavs. Loktantrik Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav is contesting on the RJD’s ticket and is up against sitting MP and Jan Adhikar Party leader Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav and JD(U) nominee and Bihar minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav.
Sharad Yadav, who was the JD (U)’s candidate in 2014, had lost to then RJD candidate Pappu Yadav. The sitting MP, who turned an RJD rebel soon after winning the seat, had tried hard to become a Grand Alliance nominee this time. But with the RJD assuring the seat to Sharad Yadav, Pappu had to contest on his party symbol.
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The Madhepura electorate comprises about 5 lakh Yadavs, 2 lakh Muslims, 3 lakh OBC Baniyas, 2 lakh Brahmins and 2.5 lakh EBCs.
While Pappu Yadav strikes a chord with the people, this election is largely being considered a fight between NDA and Grand Alliance.
Sharad Yadav has been playing up the issue of reservation and accusing the NDA government of “planning to do away with reservation”. “There would not be any election if Narendra Modi becomes PM again,” he has said.
Pappu Yadav, on the other hand, has said, “I tell people that I am like their son and can rush to them in hours of distress while other candidates are outsiders.”
Both RJD, NDA have eyes on poll arithmetic
Elections in Madhepura have often witnessed a polarisation on caste lines. With the RJD hoping for the Muslim-Yadav combination to work in its favour, the NDA looks to consolidate votes from non-Yadav OBCs, upper castes and Dalits. The NDA did this successfully in the 2009 general election when its candidate Sharad Yadav got over 48 per cent votes against the RJD candidate. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the NDA would be hoping for a similar show, but this time, it is up against more formidable opponents.
JD(U)’s Dinesh Chandra Yadav, who has represented Saharsa — now part of Madhepura constituency — twice in Lok Sabha, is seeking votes in name of development by the state and the central governments.
Saharsa resident Sanjay Soni said, “While Pappu Yadav is running an extensive campaign and maintaining a rustic touch, he may not get as much support as is being promised to him. Voters are divided across the NDA-RJD lines. Pappu has tried to reach out to Brahmins but it may not convert into votes. People still remember his rivalry with Rajput leader Anand Mohan in the 1990s and the backward-forward binary is also on some voters’ minds.”
Madhepura resident Pradeep Jha said that while Madhepura and Sonbarsa Assembly segments could give an edge to the RJD, the NDA is likely to lead in Saharsa and Bihariganj. Often, Alamganj and Mahisi Assembly segments have played the decider. “It will boil down to Sharad Yadav and Dinesh Chandra Yadav, with Pappu adding the third angle to the contest. The more Yadav votes he gets, the more damage he inflicts on Sharad Yadav’s prospects,” said Jha.