For the two major alliances, the poll operations differ as widely as their political narrative. In the BJP, a network of trained karyakartas is spreading out Friday, divided into groups with specific tasks assigned by a central office. In the grand alliance, the parties’ job has ended with the rallies of star campaigners Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. The final ground management is left on each candidate, who tries to ensure a presence in the many booths of his or her constituency.
While the BJP prepares to follow the voters to the booths, maha gathbandan candidates have “left it to God and the janata”.
Kanchan Kumar Sinha, 52, the BJP’s Gaya mahanagar adhyaksh, is spearheading Prem Kumar’s preparations in the city. Kumar has never lost an election since 1990 and Sinha has been involved in all six victories. He organises everything around the 237 booths.
The night before polling, Sinha’s eyes were swollen for lack of sleep. Of medium height and mustachioed, the pockets of his saffron kurta hanging under the weight of mobile phones and papers, Sinha sat on a plastic chair surrounded by dozens of workers. Sinha, who has a diary business, said he does this election work voluntarily.
“Before the election, workers of our prabagh committee look for the recipients of all central and state schemes and help them get those on time. Our workers also help people register their names and get voter cards,” he said. “This builds a contact.”
Prem Kumar said polling day has four aspects. “There are workers who do booth planning, workers who go door to door to bring voters, a worker who arranges for food and refreshment for booth teams, and workers who monitor the entire exercise from the karyalay,” he said. Sinha explained the layers: “We have prabagh committees, booth committees, ward committees and mandal committees. Twelve people manage one booth, including a polling agent and 10 others responsible for around 100 votes each.”
Manoj Kumar Chandravanshi, 48, heads the ward 30 committee. “I have nine booths and around 100 workers, and booth heads.’’ He said they are in a hurry is to “distribute the rest of the voter slips”. An LIC agent, Chadravanshi joined the BJP in 2009.
Ajay Kumar Yadav, 45, is in charge of booth 132 in this ward. “I joined the BJP in 1995, a time when no Yadav would leave Lalu”. He has been in Prem Kumar’s team since. “My job is to see that all 10 workers with me make sure our supporters come to vote,” he said. “I will be at my booth at dawn.”
A few kilometres away, Congress candidate Priya Ranjan, son of former legislator Dr Jugal Kishore Prasad said that until September 26, he was not sure whether he was contesting. “The decision came a little late,’’ he said. “There is a structure intact but I wish I had more time.” The Congress hasn’t won an election from here in 25 years. Ranjan has turned the lawns of his home into an office where workers sat on plastic chairs. “The voter has made up his mind. No one can do anything about it now,’’ Ranjan said when asked whether he can match the BJP’s elaborate management.
“We have faith in God.” Ranjan said his party has “already put polling agents etc in each booth”.
The JD(U)’s ticket aspirant Rajiv Bernawal has quit and is contesting as an independent.
At Shergathi 30 km away, JD(U) MLA Vijay Prasad Yadav was going door to door in villages he couldn’t reach earlier. His office was packed with people who had been waiting for hours. Dozens of workers were in the corridor that enters a dimly lit apartment where a few men sat on a bed. At the centre of his preparations is his brother Kishore Yadav. “We have 265 booths and have made booth committees. We have assigned the job and now it is all up to God,’’ Kishore Yadav said. “We don’t worry about the small details too much. We have left our fate to the janata.”
Another 21 km away, in Barachatti, the RJD’s Samata Devi ran around with her aides, trying to reach as many doors as she could in the final hours. A Musahar, she is the daughter of former Gaya MP Bhagwati Devi and faces the LJP’s Sudha Devi, also a Musahar and daughter-in-law of sitting Gaya BJP MP Gaya Hari Manjhi. “We have 298 booths,’’ Samata said, “and we have tried our best. I am folding my hands and requesting people to vote for me, that’s our only strategy.”
The sitting JD(U) MLA is Jyoti Manjhi, whose daughter is married to Jitan Ram Manjhi’s son. Jyoti had stayed loyal to Nitish Kumar but, after being denied the ticket, she has now revolted. This could work against the RJD-JD(U) which was hoping to negate the effect of Manjhi’s exit.
A man in Samata’s team took out two pages with the names of workers deputed to booths. “We have written down the numbers of two workers. One of them will be the polling agent so that we can keep in touch,” he said. “The rest, we have left to God.”
AT A GLANCE
Gurua: BJP leaves out sitting MLA Surindra Sinha, brings in Rajiv Nandan from Tikari to face the JD(U)’s Ramchandra Prasad Singh in a Dangi versus Dangi contest. Singh has won an election from here as an independent and been the JD(U)’s district president. The Dangi community was given EBC status by Nitish. The NCP has fielded Anwar Ali Khan in a constituency with a strong Maghi Pathan population.
Sherghati: Nitish’s minister Vinod Prasad Yadav against HAM’s Mukesh Kumar a.k.a. Krishna Yadav. Independent Manju Agarwal, associated with Durga Vahini, may cut into the NDA vote. Last time, she had finished second. Two candidates are Muslims (NCP and an independent).
Wazirganj: BJP MLA Birendra Singh versus Congress’s Awadhesh Kumar Singh, both Rajputs. The BJP candidate faces anti-incumbency and caste equations could help the Congress, The BJP is hoping Jatinder alias Bachchu Yadav will cut into the Congress vote.
Atri: Former MLA Kunti Devi (RJD) versus Arvind Singh (LJP), a Rajput. Devi is the wife of Rajinder Yadav, a local Bahubali currently in jail. Sitting JD(U) MLA Krishan Nandan Yadav is contesting from Pappu Yadav’s party. The LJP candidate is a Rajput. The constituency has a strong Bhumihar population and the local mukhiya, Darvesh Singh (a Bhumihar) is an independent.
Bela: Sharim Ali (HAM) versus RJD strongman Surendra Yadav. The only Muslim candidate fielded by either alliance in the Magadh region, Ali said, “The maha gathbandan hasn’t fielded a single Muslim across Magadh and they claim their right on cent percent Muslim vote.” No BJP or HAM leader, however, has campaigned for him. “This wasn’t done purposely,” he said.