This time, the Yadav vote is getting fragmented, potentially hurting Lalu Prasad’s party in key constituencies

The Yadavs make up the single largest caste group in Bihar, reason enough for parties to covet their support during elections. This time however, the Yadav vote is getting fragmented, hurting Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), regarded as a party of the community, in key contests.

The RJD will still get a lion’s share of the votes, but party rebels, the “Modi wave” and the anti-incumbency factor working against its alliance partner Congress may dent its traditional vote base.

The RJD will be put to its toughest test in Patliputra, where voter sentiment is sharply divided between party loyalty, as Mr. Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti is contesting, and support for the formidable rebel and BJP candidate, Ram Kripal Yadav. Ms. Bharti calls her opponent, a former aide of Mr. Prasad, “uncle.”

The Janata Dal (United) has fielded Ranjan Prasad Yadav, MP, again, adding to the confusion among Yadav voters.

His candidature can do enough harm to the margins of both Ms. Bharti and Mr. Ram Kripal Yadav. In 2009, he defeated Mr. Prasad by 23,500 votes.

“There is confusion among Yadav voters. Apart from the three main candidates, there will be independent Yadav candidates. Yet Ms. Bharti has a better chance. Mr. Ram Kripal Yadav’s voter connect is strong, but people are not taken in by it. He is the one who benefited from the RJD [rather than the other way round],” Rajendra Prasad Singh, a Yadav voter from Danapur in Patliputra, says.

Another Yadav-vs-Yadav tussle is building up in the Madhepura constituency, where RJD candidate and strongman Rajesh Ranjan, alias Pappu Yadav, is locking horns with Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav, a four-time MP from the constituency.

In Patliputra’s town area, a shift of Yadavs from the RJD fold is discernible, with its small businesses and prominent presence of the Baniya community and other upper castes. In these urbanised pockets, the BJP has influenced Yadav voters.

Manoj Kumar Yadav, a voter from the Maner area, an RJD stronghold, says he had been a Lalu Prasad supporter, but has now switched loyalties to the BJP.

Rural support

The RJD is likely to retain its support in rural areas, where, unhappy with the sitting MP, Yadav voters have turned in favour of the RJD. Mr. Ram Kripal Yadav is a three-time MP, whose presence and work at the grassroots many swear by. He won the Patna Lok Sabha seat (before delimitation) in 1993 (by-election), 1996 and 2004. A party organiser, he is actively building a personal cadre by weaning away RJD workers on the ground, a section of them young.

“A substantial section of the Yadavs will be with Mr. Prasad. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has lost ground and a section of Yadavs who had supported him in the past may return to Mr. Prasad. However, in areas where the RJD is weak, it may not be able to transfer its votes to the Congress, which will benefit the BJP,” Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, Professor of Patna University and political commentator, says. The impact of the erosion of the Yadav vote from the RJD will be felt even in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election, proving to be costly for Mr. Prasad.