Lalu's son Tej Pratap faces his first electoral test in Mahua
Mahua (Bihar), Oct 17 (IANS) RJD chief Lalu Prasad's eldest son Tej Pratap Yadav, who is testing the electoral waters for the first time, is facing a tough challenge in Bihar's Mahua assembly constituency where he is pitted against two other Yadavs.
Tej Pratap Yadav, 25, is locked in a bitter battle with Hindustani Awam Morcha's Ravindra Ray, who won this assembly seat on a JD-U ticket in 2010 by defeating RJD's Jageshwar Ray.
Ravindra Ray revolted against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and was suspended by the JD-U in 2014. Later he joined hands with former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Mahua, having over 255,029 voters, goes to polls on October 28 in the third phase of the staggered Bihar elections that end on November 5. Votes will be counted on November 8.
Jageshwar Ray was a strong contender for the RJD ticket in the party but didn't get it as Lalu Yadav decided to field his son Tej Pratap Yadav.
Defying party diktat, Jageshwar Ray jumped into the fray on a ticket from the Pappu Yadav-led Jan Adhikar Party (JAP), making the fight triangular.
All the three major contenders are Yadavs in this Yadav dominated assembly constituency followed by Muslims. Mahua constituency is part of Hajipur parliamentary constituency where Ram Vilas Paswan has considerable clout.
Some locals are of the opinion that Tej Pratap may lose this election if the Yadav votes get split.
However, Mithilesh Singh, a professor at N.N. College, Singhara differs.
"There is a radical change in the mindset of the youth after Narendra Modi became prime minister especially due to his foreign visits. They are no longer bound to cast their vote on caste lines," he said.
Another resident, Bablu Ray, 41, who runs a lathe machine centre at Mangu Chowk in Mahua said: "Yadavs and Muslims form the winning combination here and Lalu is focussing on it. Since all the three major contenders are Yadavs so these votes will be divided to some extent but Muslims will make the way easy for Tej Pratap."
He added that Vinod Yadav of Dharm Jagran Manch is fighting as an independent candidate.
"He (Vinod Yadav) was seeking a BJP ticket but due to seat sharing arrangement the Mahua seat went to Manjhi's HAM. He enjoys good support among Hindus in the area as he succeeded in closing down slaughter houses in Rasulpurmubarak village of Dabru Panchayat after a long battle," said Bablu Ray.
Shashi Choudhry of Mukundpur described Tej Pratap as an outsider and raked up his educational qualifications issue.
"Tej Pratap is not a local candidate. He is only ninth pass and does not even speak well. How will he represent us in the assembly," he asked.
Despite Jageshwar Ray's candidature, the local unit of RJD is completely behind Tej Pratap.
Tej Pratap's mother and former chief minister Rabri Devi is also camping in the area and is trying to reach out to every household to ensure her son's electoral success.
Besides that, Dharmanirpeksha Swayamsewak Sangh (DSS), an NGO founded by Tej Pratap, is also working in the area to ensure his victory.
Mukesh Kumar, a teacher, told IANS that HAM candidate Ravindra Ray enjoys the support of the upper castes and if Jageshwar Ray succeeds in cutting the vote share of Yadavs, Ravindra Ray may well romp home.