Two roadshows, one by BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy and the other by Rabri Devi, summed up the election mood in Saran. Rudy’s roadshow gauged the saffron “surge” and sought votes for Narendra Modi. Rabri invoked the dangers of electing Modi and sought a mandate against him.
That was on Saturday, hours before the RJD cavalcade was stopped by police and administrative officials for election-related checking.
The contest in Saran is being seen as the mother of all battles in Bihar. Rabri Devi, wife of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, is pitted against Rudy, a former civil aviation minister, for the May 7 Lok Sabha contest.
Lalu Prasad had been representing Chhapra, now Saran, barring a few occasions. Lalu is not contesting this time because of his conviction in the fodder scam case.
Rudy has been elected from Saran earlier but never against Lalu Prasad. BJP hopes “Modi wave” will change fortunes for Rudy.
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Rabri Devi, a former chief minister herself, campaigns with confidence, and repeats punchlines of Lalu. The crowd response is good.
JD(U)’s Salim Pervez, on the other hand does not seem to cut much ice with voters. The contest seems to be between Rudy and Rabri.
Rudy, along with former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and senior leader C P Thakur, held a roadshow on a pick-up vehicle converted into a rath. BJP MLC Sanjay Mayukh stood repeating names of the three leaders. As the three waved and at times folded hands in namaskar, shopkeepers and passersby waved back. Some clicked photographs, a few showered petals of marigold from roads or balconies. Rudy, who preferred to speak in Bhojpuri, reminded people to make Narendra Modi PM by pressing the lotus button on EVMs. Some nod at Rudy’s request, some smile and wave back to show support.
Electric wires hung low, at places below head-level of leaders on the rath. They ducked to escape the wires. No speech was delivered.
During a stretch of 13 km, there were several pockets of OBC banias. Rudy, who looked confident, left the pilot jeep behind. He occasionally shouted instructions to his mangers on walkie-talkie. The saffron cap on his head was blown away at least thrice. He got it back every time.
The town was covered in two hours.
Sushil Modi and C P Thakur got back to their chopper for another function and Rudy left for Parsa.
Rabri, with supporters in tow, started from Chhapra’s Bhikhari Thakur Chowk. The RJD leader had already campaigned in town. On Saturday she passed Muslim pockets of Karimchak. Her carcade stopped at a busy marketplace. She took the microphone and said: “You do not need to fear anyone (read Narendra Modi) because Laluji is around. There may be a Modi wave in Gujarat, there is no Modi wave here. One must not support a rioter. Treat this election as if the country is under attack.”
The crowd cheered. Rabri told them that the RJD stands for social justice and development.
She said, “Rudy cannot even count how much work Laluji has done as an MP and railway minister. He brought a railway factory to Maraurha here. What did Rudy do when he was minister?”
In Karimchak she wanted to meet voters. Sitting in the front seat of a Fortuner, she offered namaskar to everyone with smile. Muslim men and women reassure her about their “100 per cent” support. She said Nitish is out of the race. After she had left, some elderly voters said this area had always voted for the RJD and this time they would vote more aggressively.
It took Rabri more than an hour to cross the area. After Karimchak, her carcade moved towards Yadav-dominated Dahiawa. Every 200 metres, an enthusiastic crowd waited. She chatted briefly with them about the party’s chances and people’s “overwhelming support”.
She headed back for Patna. Lalu Prasad would take over the rest.