Chandu Lal Sahu, the BJP’s winning candidate from Mahasamund, was up against 10 other namesakes this election. Ashutosh Bhardwaj sets out in search of the Chandu Sahus and finds them spread across five districts and 1,100 km, polls and politics well behind them.
It’s morning and Chandu Sahu of Gadsivni village in Mahasamund district is out for a swim in the Mahanadi. On seeing our camera, Chandu ducks under water and heads for the opposite bank. His niece calls after him, but he is now just a bobbing head in the distance. At home, his ailing grandfather waits for the promised visit to the doctor. At his cycle repair shop nearby, a boy with a flat tyre waits for him. The shop will now probably remain closed the entire day.
Some 400 km away, Chandu Sahu of Goindra village in Mungeli district is attending to his cow. He, too, wants to run away but a group of children surrounds him and jeers: “Saansadji, tell us at least now, how much money did you get for contesting the election?”
Another 600 km away, in Bhatigarh village of Gariyaband district, labourer Chandu Sahu’s father is an angry man. “They promised my son a government job and Rs 50,000 for contesting the election. We got nothing, except for disrepute. Everyone taunts us. I told him not to set off on this path, but he was lured into it,” says Tej Ram, in his sixties.
His neighbours don’t believe a word of what Tej Ram is saying. “Chandu lapped it all up. Jogi (former chief minister Ajit Jogi) spent crores this election, why would he cheat Chandu for such a small amount?” one of them asks.
They were 10 in all, between the ages of 26 and 64. They lived in villages of central Chhattisgarh, insulated and isolated from the world of politics. Their only common denominator was the name —Chandu Sahu — that they shared with the BJP candidate from Mahasamund this election, Chandu Lal Sahu (Chandu Bhaiya). Seven of the Chandu Sahus carried BPL cards. Six of them hadn’t visited Mahasamund until the elections.
This summer, they found out they were contesting when each of them got letters from the Election Commission. All of them were Independent candidates with symbols such as bat, batsman and belt.
Someone had picked them up from across five districts and 1,100 km. An extraordinary talent hunt allegedly carried out by former chief minister and Congress Mahasamund candidate Ajit Jogi. The Congress leader, who denies any role in putting them up, says, “I do not know any of these Chandus. Only those making the allegations can tell who asked them to contest.” But the signs are obvious. continued…