No one comes calling, not anymore. Suddenly alone, Vikram Kunwar, BJP MLA from Raghunathpur in Siwan, has only one query: “What is my crime? Let me know my crime, and then hang me.” It is a question he asks himself 20 times an hour.
Denied a party ticket, the 60-year-old is at the centre of a row that has rocked the BJP in Bihar after he alleged that a top party leader had taken Rs 2 crore to allot a ticket to his old rival Manoj Singh. Kunwar spoke out after BJP MP R K Singh claimed party tickets were being sold to criminals and strongmen.
A Rajput, Kunwar believes his nearly four-decade career in the BJP is over, and his future dark. He says he has been “robbed” of his honour, his image lowered before his voters.
He regrets not knowing BJP president Amit Shah. “For one whole day last week, I waited at the Maurya hotel to see Amit Shah but I could not manage even five minutes with him.”
He maintains that money changed hands to deny him a ticket but concedes he has no proof: “You don’t need evidence in politics.”
Describing as “a racket” the “surveys” a party conducts in constituencies before disbursal of tickets, Kunwar says those who come for the survey from Delhi or Patna are “whisked away by strongmen and rich ticket-aspirants from the railway station” itself.
“I was told that in a survey I was given only 7 marks while Manoj Singh was helped to get 74 marks. Rubbish. It is bogus. How is it possible? I repaired, improved 154 roads, put up 98 transformers for power supply, built a huge high school and 6 bridges.”
He suspects he has been done in by BJP’s state president Mangal Pandey who is also from Siwan. Pandey wanted to contest the Lok Sabha elections but lost out to Omprakash Yadav. Kunwar helped Yadav win and that he believes created a wedge with Pandey.
Rival Manoj Singh has been handed the ticket that Kunwar says should have been his. He says Singh used to work for Siwan strongman Mohammad Shahabuddin before they parted ways.
“I have had tension with him since long. I curtailed the business of Manoj Singh’s brother… I have doubled my security from three to six guards… Manoj Singh jitega ya harega, hamein toh nahin bakshega (Win or lose, Manoj Singh is not going to spare me).”
The BJP has rejected Kunwar’s allegations and backed the selection of Manoj Singh. But Kunwar claims he knows Manoj Singh better than the party.
He recalls his own association with the party. One of the original members of Jaya Prakash Narayan’s Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti, he went to jail during the Emergency.
“When I was a student in 1971, Pakistan had shot down an Indian plane. I took out a rally in Patna shouting, ‘Pak ne toda ek viman, hum todenge Pakistan’.” He says his “energy, commitment and nationalism” was noticed by Govindacharya of the RSS who took him to a shakha in Rajendra Nagar, Patna. He was also taken to an RSS training camp and soon became a full-time RSS member.
“I had a Rajput-style moustache and the personality of a strongman… Like Prime Minister Modi, I too come from a poor family… Woh chaiwala thhey, mein durban ka beta hoon.” His father was a security guard at the Regent Cinema in Patna.
Kunwar had crossed over to the Janata Dal and RJD before getting a BJP ticket in 2010. He fought his first election in 1977 on a Janata Party ticket and won. In 1980, he contested as a BJP candidate but was defeated. He left the BJP in 1982.
He left Janata Dal too because there he realised “juloos hum nikaale, ticket kisi aur ko mila (I was the one to bring out processions but the ticket would go to someone else)”.
He describes the late Kailashpati Mishra as his mentor. “In Bihar politics, you need a mentor. Pandit Mishra was my mentor. He met me in 2007 and invited me back to the BJP.”
This time, he was very confident the party ticket would come his way. He reels off names of leaders — RSS coordinator Nangendraji, MPs like Ashwini Choubey and Radha Mohan, even Sushil Modi — who he claims had told him that his ticket was assured.
And that brings him to another regret: “I wish I had known my fate earlier. I spent my savings of Rs 17 lakh on my constituency. I visited 20 panchayats, formed booth committees and held meetings where I spent on tea and snacks. I spent the money I had saved for my family, I thought I was going to get the ticket.”