Why Two Rajputs Will Play A Significant Role In Bihar Assembly Elections

Why Two Rajputs Will Play A Significant Role In Bihar Assembly Elections

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Thursday, September 17, 2020 07:16 PM IST
Why Two Rajputs Will Play A Significant Role In Bihar Assembly ElectionsRaghuvansh Prasad Singh (L) and Sushant Singh Rajput (R) (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Sushant Rajput's demises and the circumstances around them are turning to be an electoral issue in Bihar.

    As of today, the RJD-led alliance is in a tricky situation trying to explain both the events and their aftermath.

Two Rajputs from Bihar--both were very popular and well regarded in their own fields--who died sudden deaths in the recent past will play a significant role in the ensuing Assembly elections in Bihar.

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR), who died on 14 June this year, and former Union Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RPS), who passed away on Sunday (13 September), have assumed prominence in the poll campaign.

And it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Janata Dal (United) combine that is likely to reap the dividends. The BJP and the JD(U) were quick to raise the issue of SSR’s alleged suicide and demand CBI probe into the unnatural death of the actor.

Pitting SSR as a ‘Bihari boy’ who was discriminated against in the big bad world of Bollywood, the NDA allies (BJP and JD-U) have made it an electoral issue.

The two parties have emerged as the champions of Bihari asmita (pride and self-respect) and put the Mahagathbandhan--the alliance of the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and other parties--on the backfoot.

BJP and JD(U) leaders have been accusing the Congress, which is a partner in the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in that state, of not taking up the issue of SSR’s unnatural death.

The Congress, and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD by association, has been put on the backfoot in Bihar by the BJP-JD(U)’s charge that it (the Congress) has taken the side of its Maharashtra coalition partner Shiv Sena which is widely perceived to be supporting SSR’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty.

Rhea Chakraborty, as per popular public belief in Bihar, is somehow responsible for SSR’s death and had exploited him for her selfish ends.

The Congress, by virtue of its alliance with the Shiv Sena which is perceived to be supporting Chakraborty, is finding itself hard-pressed to counter the BJP-JD(U)’s campaign.

“The Congress is in cahoots with the bad elements in Bollywood who are responsible for SSR’s death. That is why it does not want the truth about the actor’s death to come out and the guilty punished. The Congress is supporting the Shiv Sena which is targeting all those who are seeking a fair probe into SSR’s death like Kangana Ranaut,” said JD(U) leader and minister Maheshwar Hazari.

BJP leader and health minister Mangal Pandey said that though the Congress unit in Bihar and the RJD have made some noises in support of a fair probe into SSR’s death and the circumstances leading to it, they were “lacking in sincerity”.

The Shiv Sena’s apparent support for Rhea Chakraborty is being highlighted by the BJP-JD(U) combine, which is also demanding that the Congress in Bihar condemn the Shiv Sena’s actions against all those who are speaking out in favour of SSR. This has, obviously, put the Congress in acute discomfiture.

The BJP-JD(U) have put up posters demanding justice for SSR all over Bihar and are making this a campaign issue.

The sudden death of another Rajput stalwart, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RPS), of Covid-19 complications just three days after he resigned from the RJD has also come in as a poll plank for NDA.

RPS represented the Vaishali Lok Sabha constituency for five consecutive terms since 1996 and served as an efficient rural development minister in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. He was also a five-term legislator before that.

A down-to-earth and honest leader, widely respected by all cutting across party lines, RPS was instrumental in implementing the UPA’s flagship NREGA programme. He was popularly known as ‘Brahma Baba’ from his spartan lifestyle and straight talk.

RPS, who had been the national vice president of the RJD, had of late been speaking out against his party’s dynastic politics. Three days before his death, he penned an emotional resignation letter to RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.

RPS then wrote three letters to chief minister Nitish Kumar asking for implementation of various projects for Vaishali. He was said to be planning to join the JD(U).

The death of RPS, a prominent Rajput face in Bihar politics, triggered an onslaught by the BJP-JD(U) against the RJD. The ruling combine charged the RJD, especially Lalu Yadav, of sidelining RPS to promote his sons.

“Raghuvashji was gravely insulted by Lalu Yadav and his family. Despite being a senior politician with fine administrative capabilities, he was never allowed to rise beyond a point within the RJD by Lalu Yadav.

“Raghuvanshji should have been nominated by the RJD to become the deputy chief minister of Bihar when the Mahagathbandhan (comprising JD-U, RJD, Congress and some minor parties) came to power in 2015. Instead, Laluji made his son Tejaswi the deputy CM. Raghuvanshji was deeply hurt by that,” said BJP leader and youth affairs minister Pramod Kumar.

This, and many other ‘injustices’ done to RPS, who transcended caste divides and successfully represented Bihar in the national arena, is being highlighted by the BJP-JD(U).

That has put the RJD on the defensive. Though the RJD leadership has been strenuously denying that it had sidelined RPS or denied him his due place, the senior leader’s anguished resignation letter and his sudden subsequent death has left the RJD squirming.

The BJP-JD(U) combine has started campaigning that RPS died a ‘broken man’ due to the injustices meted out to him by Lalu Yadav.

Prime Minister Modi, at a video conference to dedicate gas and petroleum projects for Bihar earlier this week, had urged chief minister Nitish Kumar to respect RPS’ last wishes with regard to Vaishali.

Even though Rajputs form just four percent of Bihar’s population, SSR and RPS were inarguably icons of the state in their respective fields at the national arena.

It is no surprise then that their sudden deaths and the perceived injustices done to them have become issues in poll bound Bihar.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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