“I’m the woman face of the RJD,” says Misa Bharati even as her father Lalu Prasad pulls out all stops to revive the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s flagging fortunes, build the second line of leadership and ensure generational succession for the growth of the party. Former Chief Minister Rabri Devi too has done her bit to give political wings to her 39-year-old daughter, but the load of canvassing has been borne by Mr. Prasad.Rallying point
Irrespective of whether he hands over the mantle to Misa immediately or not, circumstances have forced Mr. Prasad to project her as a rallying point to strengthen the RJD’s roots and its leadership. The RJD chief’s electoral prospects took a hit after he was barred from contesting elections following his conviction in the multi-crore fodder scam case in September 2013.
Apart from maintaining the party’s base, which he formed in 1997 after splitting from the Janata Dal, Mr. Prasad’s decision to field his daughter from Pataliputra constituency is also aimed at replicating the success achieved by Mulayam Singh and Shibu Soren by placing their sons in the driver’s seat.
Akhilesh Yadav played a crucial role in the Samajwadi Party’s success in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and Mr. Soren galvanised the sputtering Jharkhand Mukti Morcha into a fighting force by making way for Hemant Soren to take over as Chief Minister in Jharkhand.
In the run-up to the polls, when it appeared smooth sailing for Mr. Prasad, his right-hand man Ram Kripal Yadav threw a spanner in the works by staking claim to the Pataliputra seat. Mr. Ram Kripal Yadav defected to the BJP and is contesting from the constituency that goes to the polls on April 17 on the party ticket.
Mr. Prasad, now, has to fend off the challenge posed to his leadership of the Yadav community by his mentor and sitting JD(U) MP Ranjan Prasad Yadav and his disciple Mr. Ram Kripal Yadav.Building mass support
Up against two uncles, Ms. Bharati has adopted the mass contact strategy to draw the support of women and young girls.
She has promised to ensure women’s reservation in the legislature even though Mr. Prasad has made known his opposition to the bill in its present form demanding reservations for various categories.
Mr. Prasad has projected Ms. Bharati as the one who would take on BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharati in the Lok Sabha on social justice issues.
Mr. Prasad’s son Tejaswi is also forging a connect with the youth, though he is still ineligible to contest the elections. On the campaign trail, Mr. Prasad has left no stone unturned. He has redefined electioneering by making his chopper land in villages and addressing political rallies in residential areas in contrast to the usual election rallies held at the district or sub divisional level.
“At stake is adhyakhshji’s (presidents’s) pagdi (crown),” RJD party workers tell voters lashing out at Mr. Yadav for betraying the RJD chief who mentored him for almost three decades.
Mr. Prasad has accused Mr. Yadav of placing the pagdi of social justice at the BJP’s feet. “You have to hold your head high with dignity… It is not my or my daughter’s prestige which is at stake,” says Mr. Prasad, but the unity and integrity of the country. He halted L.K. Advani’s rath in Samastipur in 1991 and claims Bihar will do it again by checkmating Narendra Modi this time, with an eye on Muslim votes. Mr. Prasad’s support seems to be growing in the rural areas. Dharmendra Yadav, a youth in Haldi Chapra, says there won’t be any erosion in the community’s vote.
Sure about winning the Kurmi votes (about 1 lakh), the JD(U) is hoping to cash in on the Maha Dalits (1.6 lakh), extremely backward castes (1 lakh) and Koeri votes (60,000).