“Pashupati mera Lakshman hain… woh bhi aapka khyal waise hi rakhega jaise main (Pashupati is my Lakshman… he will take care of you like I have),” Lok Janshakti Party chief and eight-time MP from Hajipur Ram Vilas Paswan has been telling people in the constituency while campaigning for his younger brother Pashupati Kumar Paras who is contesting against Mahagathbandhan candidate Shivchandra Ram of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Citing poor health, Ram Vilas Paswan this time opted out of the Lok Sabha poll and fielded his brother from his traditional Hajipur (reserved) constituency but his ‘Lakshman’ is apparently locked in a tough battle against RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s Shivchandra ‘Ram’.
Local vs outsider
Mr. Ram is a local from Mahua block of Vaishali district, while Mr. Paras comes from Alauli of Khagaria district. The three Assembly constituencies of Hajipur Lok Sabha seat — Lalganj, Mahnar and Hajipur — are currently held by the NDA while three others — Mahua, Raghopur and Rajapakar — are with the RJD. Lalu Prasad’s two sons — Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav — represent Mahua and Raghopur constituencies respectively, and Mr. Ram is a legislator from Rajapakar. “It’s a battle between Lalu’s Ram and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lakshman… it’s also a contest between local versus outsider,” said sexagenarian Jagdish Rai of Raghopur.
Since 1977, Mr. Paswan has won the Hajipur parliamentary seat eight times. In 2009 LS election, he lost to JD(U)’s Ram Sundar Das. He has done some development work including opening zonal office of Food Corporation of India and East Central Railway zonal HQ. This time, Mr. Paswan is working hard to make his younger brother win the seat. Recently, he gave full-page advertisement in local dailies telling the Hajipur residents that he was “dedicating his younger brother Pashupati Paras for the services of his mother, Hajipur”, and would himself continue to serve them from the other side. He also had outlined the development works he undertook for the constituency.
On the other hand, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav too has been telling voters that his father’s prestige is at stake in Hajipur and they should help Mr. Ram win. Mr Ram, who is said to be close to Mr. Tejashwi and Mr. Lalu, was a Minister in the previous grand alliance government in the State.
Mr. Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav’s Lalu-Rabri Morcha too has fielded Balinder Ram, a local leader. “Shivchandra is the son of the soil, while Paras is not Paswan, and he also comes from Khagaria,” Madho Singh, a retired LIC employee, said in Mahua.
He added that a section of the people may vote for the NDA candidate in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Caste calculations of the Hajipur seat suggest that the contest between the NDA and the Mahagathbandhan candidates appears to be tough and the victory margin might not be like “what Ram Vilas Paswan has been bagging”.
With 3.5 lakh Yadavs, 1 lakh Muslims,1.40 lakh Kushwahas and 1.10 lakh Ravidas, the Mahagathbandhan candidate appears to be on a strong pitch, while the NDA nominee seems to be equally strong with 2.5 lakh EBC (Extremely Backward Caste), 1.40 lakh Bhumihars, 2.5 lakh Rajputs, over 60,000 Brahmins and 1.30 lakh Paswans.