Gangsta Rap: Pappu Yadav In Bihar

Did an independent candidacy elevate Pappu Yadav’s stature? Voices from the ground say so

Photo: Suresh K. Pandey
People’s Person: Pappu Yadav with his mother in Purnia Photo: Suresh K. Pandey

At around 3 pm, Pappu Yadav leaves his home to reach a programme venue. His black Fortuner is cruising down the Rajabari Road when it is overtaken on either side by young boys on bikes. Yadav slows down and extends his hand towards the boys. From the left, Aman Gian, 17, shakes his hands and says: “Sir, if you win, I will set off more than a hundred firecrackers. You’ve made us famous. Purnia has shot to fame during these elections because of you.”

It’s the day after the elections. Purnia voted on April 26, in the second phase. But even after the elections, Yadav seems to be in a campaign mode. The people in the streets still run towards his car and he still stops to shake their hands and greet them with a namaste.

In Purnia, Pappu Yadav has a dedicated fan base.

Gian, only 17, is full of beans about Yadav. He says that whenever he gets to cast his vote, it will go to him. When asked to explain his choice, he says: “I asked all of my friends, and even my teachers, to vote for Pappu sir. I have been his fan ever since I got to know how he helped people during the lockdown. I’m interested in politics. If I become a leader, I will emulate him.”

Purnia is said to be the hottest seat among the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. Political analysts and local residents account for Purnia’s prominence by referring to the fact that Yadav contested as an independent.

Manoj Mukul, a senior journalist who has been reporting on Bihar’s elections for several years, believes that the particular sequence of events that unfolded with regard to the Purnia seat put the electoral fight here and Yadav in the limelight.

Notably, a month before the election, Yadav merged his Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik) with the Congress.

Following this, it was expected that he would be the INDIA bloc’s candidate from Purnia. However, before the Congress could announce his name, its ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) declared its own candidate, Bima Bharti, a former minister and MLA from Rupauli, Purnia. Bharti had joined the RJD after quitting the Janata Dal (United). After this, Purnia’s political temperature started soaring. There were several rounds of talks between the Congress and the RJD, but the latter remained adamant about its claim on the seat. Finally, Yadav filed an independent nomination and began campaigning.

Regarding the huge crowd gathered at his nomination and the tremendous public support he received from the people, journalist Mukul says: “After everything that happened, Yadav fought the entire election riding a wave of sympathy. In his road shows and meetings, he claimed that he was cheated and that there was a bid to assassinate him politically. He broke down many times. All this earned him a lot of sympathy.”

Yadav is a gangster turned politician who has been an MP from Purnia three times. Born in the Khurda village of Madhepura, he has been with various political parties. Apart from the RJD, the Samajwadi Party, and the Congress, he has been a part of many fronts and organisations too.

A five-time MP, he began his electoral journey in 1990 and joined the Bihar Assembly as an independent MLA from Sinheshwar. A year later, he contested the Lok Sabha elections for the first time from Purnia and won. He has won most of the elections as an independent.

Even those who support other parties have a soft corner for Yadav. Vishnu Chaudhary, 53, has been a cab driver for the last thirty years. A resident of Damgara, Purnia, he is a staunch supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi but he also has a soft corner for Yadav. “The RJD forcibly grabbed this seat from the Congress. Had Yadav got the hand of the Congress, he would have been stronger. He was cheated, so he filed his nomination as an independent candidate,” he says.

According to political analysts, though Yadav did not win a single election in the last five years, his influence in Purnia remains intact.

Chaudhary reports voting for the arrow (symbol of the JDU) at Modi’s behest, but he also says that what the RJD did to Yadav was not right. He feels Yadav has people’s sympathy because he stands up for the poor and helps them.

He gives an example. “When there was a fire in the nearby Bhauva village, no MLA or MP from Purnia went there, but Yadav reached the place immediately. He helped people, rebuilt their houses, and distributed rations. He has been going door to door in Purnia for the last one year. No MP from Purnia has done that.”

The word on the street is that although the RJD’s Bima Bharti was contesting the elections on behalf of the INDIA bloc, the real fight occurred between the scissors and the arrow. Yadav’s election symbol was a pair of scissors, while Santosh Kushwaha, a two-term JDU MP, was contesting here for the third time using the arrow symbol. Kushwaha was also an NDA-supported candidate.

In politics, image matters. “Pappu Yadav is changing his Bahubali (gangster) image. He helped a lot of people during the Patna flood and the lockdown,” says Roshan, a resident of a small town in Purnia, who works in Uttar Pradesh. At the age of 27, he cast his vote in a Lok Sabha election for the first time but is politically aware. “The way he contested as an independent after his ticket was cancelled, turned Purnia into a hot seat,” he says.


According to political analysts, though Yadav did not win a single election in the last five years, his influence in the area remains intact. The constituency is replete with stories of Yadav’s generosity and willingness to help those in need.

There is a common perception among political analysts in Purnia that the statement given by Tejashwi Yadav against Pappu Yadav backfired for his party, the RJD, and proved beneficial for Pappu Yadav. “This is a fight between INDIA and NDA. If you are not not voting for our candidate, then you are certainly voting for the NDA. It is clear,” he had said.


Journalist Adityanath Jha asserts that the RJD’s campaign against Yadav caused a lot of damage to its own candidate. “Firstly, the political drama in the INDIA bloc regarding the Purnia Lok Sabha seat makes it evident that somewhere, there is some fear within the RJD. Secondly, as a result of this fear, the RJD fielded 43 party MLAs in the campaign against Yadav,” he says. “Tejashwi’s statement on Yadav is enough to understand the fear within the RJD,” he adds.

Jha describes Yadav as a formidable leader who will dominate the scene wherever he goes. He also says that he is in the reckoning to become an MP because the Muslims here have voted for him. They have opted to vote for a Yadav and not for the RJD. Journalist Mukul, too, believes that the RJD seems troubled by the growing stature of Yadav. Not only does Yadav have clear relevance in Bihar’s politics, his social popularity has also grown in the last few years. The RJD has tried to defeat him. It may even be said about Tejashwi that, on this seat, he personally contested the election against Yadav.


Mukul continues: “Up until now, it has been believed that the biggest leader of the Yadav community in Bihar is Lalu Yadav and that Tejashwi Yadav is enhancing and maintaining his legacy. Against this backdrop, Pappu Yadav contests elections against the Lalu family. If he wins, or even if he loses, by 10,000-15,000 votes, a big message will go out that a leader from the community will stand against the family and help it be defeated.”

Mukul sees the possibility of Yadav winning the Purnia seat because many factors are in his favour here. Firstly, the Muslim and Yadavs could have voted for him. Secondly, people may have tried to identify and vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the sitting MP who faces anti-incumbency.


(Translated by Kaushika Draavid)

Md Asghar Khan in Purnia. This appeared in print as Gangsta Rap.