In Bihar’s Purnea, Independent Pappu Yadav Overshadows NDA Vs INDIA Contest – News18

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This is despite the fact that the NDA candidate is JD(U) MP who is aiming at a hat-trick while the INDIA bloc has thrown its weight behind Bima Bharti, who recently quit Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's party and was promptly rewarded by arch-rival Lalu Prasad with the RJD ticket.
 (Image: Getty/File)

This is despite the fact that the NDA candidate is JD(U) MP who is aiming at a hat-trick while the INDIA bloc has thrown its weight behind Bima Bharti, who recently quit Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party and was promptly rewarded by arch-rival Lalu Prasad with the RJD ticket.
(Image: Getty/File)

In the battle for 2024, the place is hogging the limelight, primarily because of Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, who according to some opinion polls, may turn out to be the dark horse when votes are counted on June 4

A surefooted NDA challenged by a determined INDIA bloc may be the big story of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, but in a Bihar seat, the narrative has come to be centred around an Independent candidate.

Situated in the state’s northeastern corner, Purnea, named after the eponymous district, has been known to literature aficionados as the land where Phanishwar Nath Renu lived and breathed life into famous characters like Hiraman, played on the big screen by Raj Kapoor in ‘Teesri Kasam’.

In the battle for 2024, the place is hogging the limelight, primarily because of Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, who according to some opinion polls, may turn out to be the dark horse when votes are counted on June 4.

This is despite the fact that the NDA candidate is JD(U) MP who is aiming at a hat-trick while the INDIA bloc has thrown its weight behind Bima Bharti, who recently quit Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party and was promptly rewarded by arch-rival Lalu Prasad with the RJD ticket.

Yadav has represented the seat thrice, in the 1990s, winning by huge margins, twice as an Independent and once on the ticket of Samajwadi Party, which is a major force in Uttar Pradesh but has never been a serious player in Bihar.

Married to Ranjit Ranjan, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP, Yadav recently merged his Jan Adhikar Party with the grand old party, which, however, refused to field him from the seat on its own ticket.

Yadav’s plea for a “friendly fight” with RJD, a domineering ally, did not find resonance with the Congress leadership despite his rhetoric of “fighting to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister”. A master of optics, Yadav filed his nomination papers as an Independent and a motorcycle procession taken out on the occasion, created a buzz that is said to have irked the NDA and the INDIA bloc alike.

The Congress has, so far, not taken disciplinary action against Yadav, though refusal of any top leader to come out in his support is being seen as an indirect snub. Moreover, at Bhagalpur, where Rahul Gandhi addressed his sole election rally in Bihar so far, Bharti was invited and presented as the “INDIA candidate”, putting paid to any doubts about the Congress’ stance on Purnea seat.

Locals believe that a campaign ‘Pranam Purnea’ that Yadav has been running vigorously for a year has helped him gain fresh popularity in the area where the sitting MP has to contend with the incumbency factor. Transfer of BJP votes, crucial for any JD(U) candidate, is also not being seen as a given in the backdrop of Nitish Kumar skipping the rally that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed in Purnea. Yadav, meanwhile, has been using his wily charm to the hilt, breaking bread with ordinary people and, frequently, breaking into sobs while recounting the “humiliation” he has faced by way of denial of a party ticket.

He has been traversing the length and breadth of Purnea, happily lending the sight of his corpulent frame atop his motorcycle to lensmen. Boasting of support from all sections of society, Yadav has been claiming that he will upset both the BJP’s upper caste base and the ‘Muslim-Yadav’ combine.

Unsurprisingly, the RJD top brass has made the fight a matter of its own prestige and decided not to leave matters in the hands of Bharti, who has represented Rupauli assembly seat five times and belongs to Gangota caste which has a sizeable presence in the district. Tejashwi Yadav, the party supremo’s heir apparent, who had accompanied Bharti when she filed her nomination papers, has intensified his campaign in the run-up to the April 26 polls, with rallies in Purnea almost every other day.

Unlike other places where his primary target is NDA, his speeches in Purnea are aimed at Pappu Yadav whom he has been calling “a BJP agent” who ran the 2020 assembly polls through resources borrowed from the saffron party.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)