“Raghopur people do not just elect an MLA, they elect the chief minister” — Tejashwi Prasad underlined as he filed his nomination from the constituency, represented by Lalu Prasad in 1995 and 2000, and Rabri Devi in 2005.
However, located by the banks of the Ganga, Raghopur has little to show for this association with successive CMs, except for uninterrupted power supply. In 2010, the Yadav-dominated Lalu stronghold chose the JD(U)’s Satish Kumar, also a Yadav, over Rabri. Tejashwi won in 2015, and is up against Satish Kumar this time.
Apart from the family name, the RJD leader, who is hoping to expand his party’s appeal beyond caste to development, is counting on goodwill arising out of a project to build a 9.6-km bridge between Kachchi Dargah (Patna) and Bidupur (Hajipur). Work on it began in 2015, when Tejashwi was deputy chief minister and held the Road Construction portfolio.
FOLLOW | Bihar Election 2020 Live Updates
The bridge is a godsend for an area where people have long got by on boats, or a temporary pontoon bridge. “I take the boat to go to Patna to sell milk. Hundreds of us, the vegetable sellers… do the same,” says Awadhesh Rai, adding that the few in Raghopur who own four-wheelers also have to often load them onto boats.
There is discontent on other issues as well, given that Raghopur has stood by the RJD first family for years. Ravi Mahto points to a flourishing ganja and illicit liquor business. “There is hardly any policing. In fact, police are afraid of venturing into this area, ” he says.
Praveen Singh, a student, reminds Tejashwi of his promise once to build a house and live in Raghopur. “Instead, he was hardly here during the floods or the Covid crisis.” Singh grants that Tejashwi might still win from the seat but says that will be only due to the caste combination. “If he is so sure of his development plank, why did he not contest from any other constituency?”
But while the Yadavs see the crowds at Tejashwi’s rallies as a sign of return of “our” rule, the desire for “development” is palpable even among them. Having just struggled across the rickety pontoon bridge, Satish Yadav says, “Jab bhi iss pul pe aate hain, toh dil baith jaata hai. Lagta hai kabhi bhi gir jayenge (Whenever I have to cross this bridge, my heart sinks. I fear that it might fall any time). Maybe, if Tejashwi becomes CM, some work will be done.”
Often described as “Mecca of Yadav”, the Raghopur Assembly seat is estimated to have around 1.25 lakh Yadavs, with other castes way behind — 40,000-odd Rajputs, and around 20,000 SCs and 10,000 non-Yadav OBCs. The LJP has put up a candidate, Rakesh Roshan, which might end up benefiting the RJD.
The giant-killer of the 2010 election, Satish Kumar, is well-regarded and has been canvassing hard in the seat even as Tejashwi criss-crosses the state shouldering the RJD campaigning. A BJP worker outside a rally by senior leader Nityanand Rai says, “The seat is difficult but Satishji is a maati putra (son of the soil). He is going house to house. He will emerge victorious again.” In 2010, Kumar had defeated Rabri by over 1,300 votes.
At Rustampur village, Lalit Kumar, 30, a Kurmi like CM Nitish Kumar, says it would be sad if Tejashwi wins despite Raghopur’s state. “What has Tejashwi done for the area as a leader? The roads are narrow, broken. We are only 40 km from Patna, but there is no development here. Look at Nitish Kumar’s village in Nalanda and see what he has done there.”
However, in this sentiment for “vikas”, there is no patience for Nitish even among others gathered around him under a banyan tree. “Work did not happen here because Nitish purposely did not let it happen. When Tejashwi is CM, of course he will have to develop Raghopur… There should be a change of government. And if Tejashwi does not work, we will throw him out like Rabri Devi,” says Sanjay Sah.
Ramesh Singh, a Bhumihar and usually a BJP supporter, says that Tejashwi might rally the Yadavs behind him but that doesn’t discount the desire for someone new. “I will decide on the last day, but maybe it will be good to have change at the top. Who knows, if Tejashwi becomes CM, Raghopur might finally see development