Bihar: Partner RJD cold, Cong’s Ranjeet Ranjan hopes her work counts

Santosh Singh
Rahul campaigning for Ranjeet Ranjan on Saturday. Tejashwi skipped the rally. (PTI)

As rebel RJD MP Rajesh Ranjan a.k.a Pappu Yadav gets set for a fierce triangular contest in Madhepura, in neighbouring Supaul, his wife and incumbent Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan is also fighting a tough battle to retain her seat.

Despite the popularity that Ranjeet enjoys in her constituency - part of Bihar's Kosi region - the poll maths is not in her favour.

In 2014, Ranjeet had won the Supaul seat with 3.32 lakh votes. The JD(U) and BJP, contesting separately, had together polled over five lakh. This time, as allies, they have fielded Dileshwar Kamat as the NDA candidate, posing a tough challenge to Ranjeet.

She is also facing opposition in-house, with RJD Pipra MLA Yaduvansh Prasad Yadav, who wanted the Mahagathbandhan ticket from Supaul, reportedly backing Independent candidate Dinesh Yadav.

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RJD scion Tejashwi Yadav has not addressed a single rally for Ranjeet, which goes to polls on April 23. He was missing from Rahul Gandhi's Supaul rally too on Saturday.

An active lawn tennis player in the Bihar circuit, Ranjeet has been very articulate in Parliament during her two terms as MP (she was earlier elected from Saharsa). She had given a well-received speech against the NDA government's triple talaq Bill, and grabbed many eyeballs in 2016 when, on International Women's Day, she rode a Harley Davidson bike to Parliament.

In her campaign, she is seeking votes as "the daughter of Kosi", also telling voters about the Congress's NYAY scheme that guarantees Rs 6,000 per month to five crore poorest families. She has been pitching it as a "more practical scheme than Narendra Modi's promise of Rs 15 lakh in everyone's account".

NDA candidate Kamat is seeking votes for a "double engine government (the BJP at both the Centre and in the state)", and has promised better rail connectivity in flood-hit Supaul.

Despite the odds, 45-year-old Ranjeet says her and husband Pappu Yadav's work in ensuring medical facilities in Supaul, Madhepura and Saharsa will help both of them.

However, says Supaul resident Amar Kumar, "This is one seat where panchpania (cluster of EBCs) rule the roost. In 2009, the NDA had won the seat. In 2014, Ranjeet Ranjan won only because of the split between the JD(U) and BJP. Now that Nitish Kumar is back with the NDA, their chances are stronger."

Among the EBCs, the Mandals, Kamats and Kevats dominate Supaul. There is also a sizeable population of Scheduled Caste Mushahars (about one lakh) and OBC Kushwahas (about one lakh), in the region.

"Even though the constituency has about 2.25 lakh Yadav and 1.25 lakh Muslims, the Muslim-Yadav combination may not work for Ranjeet Ranjan since the RJD cadre is not supporting her fully," adds Kumar.

The RJD's Yaduvansh Yadav had demanded Supaul during seat-sharing negotiations with the Congress, claiming that the Congress had no cadre in Supaul. His support for Independent candidate Dinesh Yadav could also cut into Yadav votes.

"The Congress is hoping to get more support after Rahul's Saturday rally. The Mahagathbandhan is also hoping for Upendra Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief who quit the NDA to join the Mahagathbandhan last year) and Jitan Ram Manjhi (Hindustani Awam Morcha president) factors to work here. But there are no clear signs of it," says Rakesh Kumar, a Birpur resident, adding, "Nationalism is an important poll factor."