April 20, 2009 1:13:17 am
Several supporters with garlands wait at the reception of a Muzaffarpur hotel. They are waiting for a word on the days schedule from room number 102 on the ground floor perhaps chosen to make the veteran socialist leader George Fernandes avoid the staircase.
Fernandes personal assistant-cum-campaign manager Frederick Dsa does not want anyone to disturb the leader. From Mumbai,Dsa has been with Fernandes since his trade union days. Let him get proper sleep so that he is fresh for todays roadshow at Kudni, says Dsa and asks them to report at 10 am. Fernandes,who has severed ties with the JD(U) to contest as an Independent from the Muzaffarpur parliamentary seat represented by him in the 14th Lok Sabha,had toured the constituency for 12 hours on Saturday.
Dressed in green kurta and white pajama,Fernandes is punctual. He takes a seat as Frederick and another interpreter get ready to assist him in fielding questions. Fernandes looks blank,his lips quiver when he speaks. He takes time to complete sentences,at times stopping midway as his men take it from there. A few leaders from the Kudani Assembly segment want to be photographed with the socialist leader. Local supporters leave happily after a snapshot in which Fernandes manages a weak smile.
Its time to hit the road. When Fernandes rises to leave,Frederick tells him,Zara tankar chaliye,media aas paas hai (walk with a commanding gait,the media is around). But Fernandes continues with the usual bent as he heads for the waiting red Tavera.
Pramod Kumar of Kudani is the campaign manager for the day. George will not speak; the pamphlets loaded in vehicles will do that for him.
But how can he convince voters without uttering a word? Frederick retorts: People know him well. He has changed with time.
A fleet of cars and motorcycles leave the town for Kudani,20 km away. At every 500 metre,over a dozen people gather and garland him. Fernandes folds his hands in gratitude.
Two kinds of pamphlets are dropped. One reads,Mera bharosa aap par,aapka vishwas mujh par (I trust you and you have faith in me. Another pamphlet runs into two pages,elaborating on the contributions of Fernandes in his long career.
Without naming Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav,the pamphlet hits out at them. Some Bihar leaders religiously learn to forget the wombs that shaped them politically, adding that it was ideology and a passion to work for people,not age that counts in electoral politics.
Fernandes,through the pamphlet,tells voters that there is dictatorship in Bihar and his fight is against that. Gautam Buddha had a trusted disciple like Anand but I have to do with the likes of conspiring Devdattas.
The pamphlet also reminds people of the valour of Kunwar Singh who had taken on the Britishers. If Kunwar Singh could fight bravely at 80,I am a bit younger.
The caravan moves ahead with small crowds welcoming Fernandes here and there. Supporters egg their leader on,assuring him of good feedback.
The fleet crosses Chhajan,Dubiyahi and some small villages to reach Kudani. It is time for a tea break for George,who does not take soft drinks.
The fleet leaves for Muzaffarpur hotel,leaving voters to discuss George a bit. Surprisingly,they betray no rancor against Nitish Kumar for denying him ticket. Some said that local leaders might have pushed Fernandes in the fray in order to further their own political interests.
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