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HVK Archives: Basking in the Lantern's Light

Basking in the Lantern's Light - The Times Of India

N R Mohanty ()
March 16, 1998

Title: Basking in the Lantern's Light
Author: N R Mohanty
Publication: The Times Of India
Date: March 16, 1998

The Lok Sabha election results in Bihar have proved many poll
predictions and analyses wrong. Several pre-poll surveys had
indicated that the BJP-Samata combine would notch up somewhere
between 35 to 42 seats whereas the Rastriya Janata Dal would not
touch the double digit figure. Poll analyses, barring a few
including in this newspaper, were premised on the argument that
Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav's vote base was fractured because of the
split in the Janata Dal and the alienation of the left parties
>from his outfit. It was presumed that the candidates put up by
the United Front would cut into the Muslim-Yadav votebank of Mr
Yadav, facilitating the victory of the BJP-Samata candidates.

Misplaced Premise

The actual results showed that both the premise as well as the
conclusion went wrong. The RJD managed to win 17 seats whereas
the BJP-Samata had to remain content with less than 30 seats.
What was more startling was the fact that the good showing by the
United Front candidates damaged the BJP-Samata alliance more than
the RJD. For example, in Sitamarhi, the JD candidate and the
outgoing MP, Mr Nawal Kishore Rai, polled 2,51,371 votes. The RJD
romped home with 2,74,586 votes while the BJP came third with
2,22,131 votes. Similar is the story in Saharsa where Mr Dinesh
Chandra Yadav, the JD candidate and a member of the dissolved Lok
Sabha, put up a stiff fight and polled 2,05,793 votes. Despite
his strong showing, the RJD candidate won with 2,59,961 votes
whereas the BJP came third with 1,92,749 votes.

The same is more or less the story in almost all of the seats
where the RJD has won. This goes to suggest that the premise of
most poll analyses were misplaced. The outcome of the election
was determined not so much by the extent of the division of pro-
Laloo votes as the extent of the division of the anti-Laloo

Since both the United Front and the BJP-Samata had made Mr Laloo
Yadav the whipping boy in their election campaign in Bihar, in
effect, they shared the anti-Laloo platform and, consequently,
the anti-Laloo votes. As and when the anti-Laloo votes were
sharply divided between two strong contenders, the RJD came out
with flying colours. This was again clearly borne out in
Jhanjharpur where Mr Devendra Prasad Yadav - a cabinet minister
in the Deve Gowda government who was dropped from the Gujral
ministry at the instance of Mr Laloo Yadav - posed a spirited '
challenge saying that he would ensure the defeat of the RJD
candidate even if he could not make it on his own. In fact, many
had predicted the Samata candidate as a surefire winner. But, as
it turned out, the RJD pipped the Samata at the post.

A quick perusal of the election results show that out of the 16
seats that the RJD had in the dissolved Lok Sabha, Mr Laloo Yadav
lost half the seats. This was mostly because the anti-Laloo votes
were consolidated in these areas. Take the case of Gopalganj, Mr
Yadav's home district. In 1996, as in 1998, the same three
candidates were in the fray: Mr Abdul Gafoor represented the
Samata-BJP alliance, Mr Lal Babu Yadav was the representative of
Mr Laloo Yadav and Mr Kali Pandey, a notorious criminal of
yesteryears, happened to be the Congress candidate. In 1996, the
anti-Laloo votes were sharply polarised with Mr Kali Pandey
managing more than 1.78 Lakh votes whereas Mr Gafoor polled about
1.5 lakh votes. This time, Mr Pandey - who was a candidate of the
breakaway Congress outfit, Bihar Jan Congress, floated by Mr
Jagannath Mishra and who was being supported by all the
constituents of the United Front polled only 87,000 votes leading
to the greater polarisation of anti-Laloo votes in favour of Mr
Gafoor. That explains why the latter easily defeated the RJD

Pivotal Figure

The same fact was also borne out in Hajipur where anti-Laloo
votes were consolidated in favour of Mr Ram Vilas Paswan as the
BJP Samata did not field a candidate of their own. Madhepura
would have seen a similar outcome had the BJP-Samata supported Mr
Sharad Yadav from the outset. The division of anti-Laloo votes
led to the RJD president's not-so-spectacular victory.

This shows that Mr Laloo Yadav, despite his depleted strength,
continues to be the pivot around whom politics in Bihar revolves.
Political analysts had presumed that Mr Yadav would be dislodged
>from the high pedestal, which he had mounted in the post-Mandal
days, in the aftermath of the fodder scandal which led to his
charge-sheeting and imprisonment. But, to everyone's utter
surprise, this did not happen. As a matter of fact, Mr Yadav's
opponents mostly fought shy of mentioning the fodder seam in the
election meetings. It was Mr Laloo Yadav who made it a point to
harness the fodder issue to his advantage. It was the judiciary
which found him innocent and set him free, he kept hammering in
his meetings. The people in the remote villages bought his logic
and rooted for him.

Caste Consideration

What could have unsettled Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav was the
ineptitude of his (and his wife's) government to solve the myriad
problems facing the people. As a matter of fact, the Bihar
government today is a telling example of failure on almost all
fronts -law and order, power, irrigation, high prices of
essential commodities such as kerosene. Mr Yadav got a taste of
the rural people's anger during his roadside campaign. They could
have given vent to their feelings with their votes. But they
didn't because they were bogged down by caste considerations.
After all, caste continues to be the ultimate basis for loyalty
in Bihar and Mr Laloo Yadav continues to be the leader of a
majority of Yadavs and Muslims in the state.

And as the election results showed, Rajputs, a numerically
preponderant upper caste in Bihar, plumped for Mr Yadav's
candidates in several constituencies because they were at
loggerheads with rival upper castes who had cast their lot with
the BJP-Samata alliance. Mr Laloo Yadav understood the caste
arithmetic well and went out of his way to woo Mr Anand Mohan
Singh, a Rajput don and hitherto a strident critic of the RJD
supremo, from the Samata fold. It was a big risk but it paid
dividends. Mr Laloo Yadav managed to hold his fort, if not
improve upon it, thanks to the M-Y-R (Muslim-Yadav-Rajput)

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