When Lalu Yadav was the chief minister, the relationship between the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the CPI(ML) was strained to say the least.
The area that make up the parliamentary constituencies of Ara and Pataliputra (Bhojpur and Patna Rural) would often witness clashes between Dalits and the upper castes. CPI(ML) would then accuse the RJD and Lalu Prasad of being soft on upper caste landlords, who in turn would accuse the RJD of being sympathetic to the ‘Naxals’.
In 2019, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which refused to concede the Begusarai seat to Kanhaiya Kumar of CPI, went out of its way to offer the Ara seat to the CPI(ML). The latter reciprocated by not putting up a candidate in the Parliamentary constituency, where Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti is pitted against union minister of state Ram Kripal Yadav.
If they manage to transfer their votes to each other, the two parties hope to bag both the seats. Indian People’s Front ( IPF), once the over ground organisation of CPI(ML), had won the Ara seat once before in 1989 and three decades later, the parent outfit hopes to repeat the feat and unseat RK Singh, former Home Secretary who joined BJP after retirement and won the seat in 2014.
In return, RJD hopes to benefit in both Pataliputra, where Lalu Yadav’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti is contesting, and in Siwan, where the wife of the imprisoned don Shahabuddin is the RJD candidate. Ironically, Shahabuddin was accused of ordering the killing of former JNUSU President Chandrashekhar, who was associated with CPI(ML)’s student wing AISA.
The don is now in Tihar Jail while his wife Hena Shahab is once again contesting as the RJD candidate. The latter is taking on Kavita Singh of Janata Dal United. She is the wife of another notorious outlaw Ajay Singh. RJD is hoping that the CPI ML would soften its stand against Hena in Siwan and help her win.
In Pataliputra, says Krishna Murari, a veteran activist of the JP movement, “Even if Ram Kripal Yadav’s votes do not come down, the problem for him is that CPI ML votes might get transferred to the RJD candidate.”
Besides, Ranjan Yadav, the former working president of RJD, is no longer in the fray. His absence this time may also prevent the division of Yadav votes in the constituency.
If RJD’s offer of support in Ara yields result, it will definitely have its impact in Pataliputra and Siwan. And it may lead to fresh realignment of forces in Bihar.