April 15, 2009 9:56:47 am
30 AM,Patna airport: Helicopters of various shapes and sizes are waiting for their high-profile passengers. Soon after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and BJP national president Rajnath Singh fly out for the last day of campaigning for the first phase,it is the turn of LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan to give final touches in the two winnable constituencies of Ara and Nawada.
Dressed in a starched and spotless white kurta-pyjama and a matching pair of sports shoes,he takes his seat in the five-seater helicopter. As the rotor starts spinning,Paswan checks the cold water box and air-conditioning. Once airborne,he takes a quick nap; he knows Sahaar,his first destination in Ara,in just 25 minutes away. Soon,he reaches for one of the two tiffin boxes onboard and takes some chapattis and sabji.
By the time he finishes breakfast,the chopper has crossed the Sone river. Keep the copter to your right,Sahaar will be somewhere around, Paswan instructs the pilot. He is right,a big crowd is visble below waving to the leader in the air. Paswan asks the pilot to circle the venue once to announce his arrival. The landing unleashes a dust storm and the crowd retreats. Some turn their backs to the dust,others bend over.
As the door opens,garlands flow in and hands reach out to touch the leaders feet. The LJPs favourite slogan Gunje dharti aasman,Ramvilas Paswan rents the air. Candidate Ramkishor Singh,alias Ram Singh,welcomes his leader to the venue as the 2,000 strong crowd takes its place in front of the dais.
The stage is full of small leaders who rush their speeches to hand over the mike to Rama Singh. With folded hands the candidate speaks of development projects undertaken by Paswan. The stage is set for the LJP chief to take over. Sahaar is like my home. My daughter is married off nearby. I am your friend in happiness and sorrow, he tells the people,reminding them how he was instrumental in getting B R Ambedkars portrait unveiled in Parliament Hall. He also says how he,as communication minister,was the first to think of a mobile phone in every hand.
Paswan calls Chief Minister Nitish Kumar a domuha saanp (two-mouthed snake) explaning how the JD(U) talks of Muslim welfare one day and garlands L K Advani the day. He says it is time for children of Dailts to wrest important positions. And he has an example at home: See,Chirag,son of Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan,has become an actor now. I had never thought about it. He asks everyone to raise hands to ensure support for the LJP,the crowd does so and the leader walks back to the chopper a happy man.
His next stop Garahni is 10 minutes away. Even a small village had these many people under the scorching sun, Paswan tells Rama Singh who has hopped in for the next leg of the journey. Rama nods in assertion and assures the leader of victory.
The crowd at Garahani is even bigger. The copter is once again the main attraction as Paswan more or less repeats his earlier speech. There are two Indias,one rich and another poor. We have to bridge this gap, he tells the voters. He also vows to keep the alliance with the RJD intact this time. Nitish became CM only because of differences with Laluji and me. But now the two of us will keep the fascist forces at bay, he adds in the five-minute speech.
He is now ready for Nawada where he has fielded Vina Devi,wife of muscleman Suraj Bhan. Back in the chopper,he tells The Indian Express that he has refrained from making personal attacks,explaining how he had a tough time defending Lalu Prasad after his roller over Varun speech.
Forty-five minutes later,Suraj Bhan is waiting for Paswan at Pakribarama in Nawada. But the stage is shaking and Paswan asks people to get off. The speech has to be a bit different here. He talks of starting a sugar mill in the area after the UPA returns to power,adding that the Barauni fertliser company will soon employ over 1,500 people. He also promises to deposit Rs 25,000 in the bank accounts of couples to which a girl is born.
He knows he has wind up by 5 pm and heads for Rajauli where Vina Devi is waiting. Paswan says Vina has been proactive even when she was not in politics. He asks for peoples blessings before returning to the chopper. He is again happy with the good crowds and says the LJP will win Ara and Nawada.
Now,he leaves for Jandaha under Hajipur for a public meeting and roadshow. He takes some rice,daal and vegetables. He is unhappy that the AC has stopped working. But then it is time for the next stop. As the chopper blades grind to a halt,Paswan gets out and disappears into the sea of supporters.
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