Former Bihar minister and six-time MLA Chandrika Rai – once a confidante of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and whose daughter Aishwarya is married to his son, Tej Pratap Yadav – will contest the Assembly elections from his stronghold of Parsa in Saran district.
Mr Rai, 62, will not, however, do so on the RJD ticket with which he won in 2015. Instead, he has joined the JDU of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose campaign has been peppered with potshots at former chief minister Lalu Yadav and his son Tejashwi Yadav – the chief ministerial face of the opposition alliance.
The son of Daroga Prasad Rai, a Congress leader and former Chief Minister, Mr Rai won the Parsa seat five times between 1985 and the February 2005 polls, which yielded a fractured verdict. He was edged out in repeat polls held months later; the JDU’s Chhotela Rai won by fewer than 5,000 votes.
That loss seemed to be a brief blip though, as he returned to retake the seat in the 2015 elections.
The fight for the Parsa seat this time around also sees Chhotela Rai in the fray, after he went the other way – swapping the JDU for the RJD. Eight other candidates are also contesting but the winner, barring a truly unexpected turn of events, is likely to be one of the two Mr Rais.
Back in August, when Chandrika Rai joined the JDU, he warned Lalu Yadav’s sons that there were “no safe seats for them in the state”. Claiming then to know which constituencies Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav would fight from in this election, Mr Rai sneered at them for choosing “safe seats”.
“It is surprising that both brothers are looking for safe seats despite being Lalu Prasad’s sons… and making tall claims of returning to power,” he said.
Mr Rai also took a swipe at his former party on the way out, declaring that “the way things are run in the party is beyond me” and that he had “always been an admirer of Nitish Kumar’s work”.
Days later Tej Pratap hit back and said the JDU “won’t gain from Chandrika Rai joining their party“.
Two years ago the relationship between the Rais and the Yadavs, two of Bihar’s most influential political families, seemed only to have been strengthened by the marriage of Mr Rai’s daughter Aishwarya to Tej Pratap Yadav.
Six months later, though, Mr Yadav filed for divorce citing “incompatibility” – the matter is before the courts – and triggering a dramatic breakdown in the families’ ties. To such a point, in fact, that Mr Rai refused to accept his daughter’s belongings when they were sent back from the Yadavs’ home.
There were rumours that Aishwarya Rai could join her father in the JDU ranks and make her electoral debut in this election – in a dramatic contest against Tej Pratap Yadav for the Hasanpur seat – but that now seems unlikely.
The divide between the two families widened in April after Tej Pratap threw a tantrum over Mr Rai being given a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the Saran seat – the seat won by Lalu Yadav in his last election before conviction in a fodder scam case.
The Parsa constituency votes in the second phase of Bihar elections – on November 3. The result will be declared on November 10.