Eyes closed, feet on the table, a spittoon by his side, his lips constantly move as though he is chanting a mantra. No, Laloo Prasad Yadav is not reciting the Hanuman Chalisa or the thousand names of Vishnu. He is listing the names of all the seats that the RJD is ‘‘sure to win’’, insisting we write them down.
‘‘Likhiye Aurangabad zila mein Navinagar, Obrah, Dawoodnagar, Rafiganj. Ab chaliye Gaya zila: Balaganj, Makdoompur, Koch, Fatehpur, Bodh Gaya, Barachatti, Imamganj. Ab upar chaliye: Sitamarhi proper, Pupri, Belsan, Sonbarsa, Bathua, Majorganj. Ab chalte hain Darbhanga, Madhubani, Hajipur.’’
A day after exit polls declared that Laloo’s lalten had been extinguished across Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav remains as confident as ever that no ‘‘upper caste media conspiracy’’ can displace him as the ‘‘messiah’’ of Bihar’s ‘‘garib janata’’ who he insists have stood by him.
At his 1, Anne Marg residence in Patna, Laloo is supremely dismissive of the exit polls, and quietly confident of proving them wrong once again. ‘‘If the world turns upside down, it is a different matter. But I too move around, I too have an understanding, I know every single seat of Bihar.’’
‘‘Take it from me in writing. Not one of the LJP MLAs who shifted to JD (U) will win this time. And what is this ‘‘hawa’’ all about? Where will Nitish get all the votes from? You people are stretching the upper caste votes like it was a rubber band!’’
‘‘Last time, my vote scattered badly,’’ he admits, attributing it to two main reasons. First, the ticket distribution had created a lot of dissatisfaction and many Independent candidates had joined the fray. And second: ‘‘My voters were overconfident. They never expected me to lose, so they thought that if they vote for an Independent here or there, it will not make a big difference to my overall tally.’’
This time he has been careful. ‘‘Ticket bahut soch samajh ke baanta, (have been very careful with tickets),’’ he says, giving examples of how RJD fielded upper castes in certain seats to make the best of caste equations, and instructed the Congress to do the same.
What about the development plank? ‘‘Yahan caste par vote hota hai, vikas par nahin (people vote on caste lines, not on development). ’’ ‘‘It is all about power. They (the upper castes) want to capture power again’’ but ‘‘hamara log power chhorna nahin chahte hain (my people are not prepared to give up power).’’