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Bihar Assembly polls: Munger set for interesting poll battle

Bihar Assembly polls: Munger set for interesting poll battle
Highlights

The talk in a tea stall in the Yadav-dominated village of Mohli here is all about Prime Minister Narendra Modi\'s exhortations to \'Yaduvanshis\' to dump RJD chief Lalu Prasad for BJP, which has fielded an unprecedented 22 candidates from the dominant backward caste.

The talk in a tea stall in the Yadav-dominated village of Mohli here is all about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's exhortations to 'Yaduvanshis' to dump RJD chief Lalu Prasad for BJP, which has fielded an unprecedented 22 candidates from the dominant backward caste.


"Many boys had voted for lotus (BJP symbol) in the Lok Sabha polls," notes Naresh Yadav, a farmer, probably underlining that it was a vote for Modi even though the BJP- led NDA had put up an LJP candidate, whose symbol is bungalow, in the Lok Sabha elections.

BJP has fielded a young Yadav leader, Pranav Kumar Yadav, in Munger where Muslims and Yadavs are two largest communities. Wary of the saffron party's effort to dent its vote bank, RJD has opted for its local Yadav veteran Vijay Kumar Vijay instead of a Muslim, whom it has traditionally fielded from here.

"Lalu ji ki BJP se ladai hai, hamari nahi (Lalu is fighting against BJP not us," says another person as they talk about the limelight the constituency is basking in after Modi became the first Prime Minister in past several decades to hold a public rally here.

But he quickly adds that the RJD chief is like "family" and even a Nitish Kumar-led government will be very much their own, unlike an NDA formation in which he colourfully describes, "Yadavs may be in the star cast but not a main star".

Aatish Yadav, who is from Sandalpur village and works in a pharma company, claims that the village youths can get more work from a government in which RJD has a say instead of NDA which, he argued, has many big leaders and will be dominated by 'upper castes'.

If BJP expects to chip away at the Lalu's core votes, then it is seats like Munger where it must succeed. But RJD supporters argue that Lalu has succeeded in consolidating them by giving them tickets from a whopping 48 seats out of the 101 his party is contesting.

"This is a local election. Big talks will not do here. People will vote for a man who benefits them the most," RJD leader Jhule Yadav says, suggesting that his party is like "home" for Yadavs, who are about 14 per cent of voters in the state and are seen as a strong and vocal community.

Aatish, though, adds that some of his friends believe that a BJP government will be more capable to develop the impoverished state. The three constituencies in Munger district, Munger, Jamalpur and Tarapur are going to polls in the first phase of assembly elections on October 12.

Lalu's branding of the polls as 'forward vs backward' fight may have invited him some flak but political watchers say it has helped him rally around the Yadav faithfuls.

Asked about the raging row over his "Hindu too eats beef" remark, most Yadavs sounded unperturbed, saying it was not an issue for them.

Among the 49 seats going to polls in the first phase, BJP has been traditionally weak as it was JD(U) which would field candidates for a majority of constituencies when both parties were together.

JD(U) had won from Munger in 2010 but ceded the seat to RJD as the social arithmetic here favours it more. Even in these elections in which BJP is the dominant partner, its allies LJP, RLSP and HAM (secular) are contesting on 22 seats in the first phase.

BJP is banking on the success of its efforts to pocket a chunk of Yadav votes like the Lok Sabha elections to turn the heat on the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance in this relatively weak zone.
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