Holding a bunch of gutkha and mouth-fresheners, Raja, 9, approaches potential customers to make some money at a rally venue in Purnea’s Baisi where RJD chief and Mahagatbandhan’s chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav is set to address the crowd. Raja says he lost his father six months ago, and he wants to supplement his mother’s income who has the burden of raising a family of four. “My mother sells bangles at villages nearby,” he says.
Even as the announcer on stage informs that Tejashwi is running behind schedule, party supporters, throwing Covid-19 precautions to wind, steadily trickle in at the ground behind Baisi High School. Sitting among a small group of supporters, Mohammad Naushad, 50, says it is a fact that no (political) party works for the poor but the least they should do is maintain social harmony. “Like his father Lalu, Tejashwi will keep that social bond.” Follow Bihar polls LIVE update
Like everywhere else, RJD’s promise of “10 lakh jobs” has drawn huge crowds in Bassi as well. Under the tent next to the stage, Mantu Kumar Yadav says he will vote for Tejashwi not only because he is a fellow Yadav but also because “he is talking about jobs also for the youth. He has promised 10 lakh jobs. But we are sure he will give jobs to at least 5 lakh people”.
Haji Abdus Subhan, an old RJD hand who has represented the Baisi Vidhan Sabha constituency for six terms, makes an impassioned plea to elect the RJD. The crowd breaks into a loud cheer when he says: “The 10-lakh-job promise is not like the one the Narendra Modi made. Tejashwi will deliver on this.”
Tejashwi is delayed further but the crowd continues to swell at the ground, which is 10 feet down the National Highway 31 and gets inundated during floods.
Baisi is one of the hotspots of migration where each year hundreds of unskilled workers move out seeking employment in urban areas across the country. From the stage, local leaders say Chief Minister Nitish Kumar blocked these workers from returning home during the lockdown.
A helicopter flies past, leading to commotion in the gathering. But it wasn’t Tejashwi’s. People move back to their positions.
As the wait gets longer, Subhan, who by then shows signs of nervousness, breaks the news that the CM candidate has reached a different election rally. He appeals to the crowd to wait for some more time. The crowd heeds his call.
As Tejashwi’s helicopter finally lands at 3 pm, after a delay of four hours, the ground erupts into chants of Tej raftar, Tejashwi sarkar. And living up to the slogan, the young leader sprints from the helipad to the stage while waving at the crowd.
In a barely four-minute speech, he attacked Nitish, “cautioned people against voting outsiders”, a reference to AIMIM, and said “ladaai ab mere aur Modi ji ke beech mein hai (the fight is between Modiji and I)”.
AIMIM is contesting in 20 seats in the Seemanchal region and its candidate from Baisi is Syed Ruknuddin Ahmad. BJP’s nominee from the seat is Vinod Kumar.
Without naming CAA-NRC, Tejashwi said the central government “harassed you by bringing different laws. I stood with you during that time. Now I am saying let’s not get divided.”
He repeated his promise of 10 lakh jobs and assured the crowd that Subhan will become a minister if RJD comes to power. With a loud approval and cheer from the crowd, Tejashwi hurries to his helicopter to reach the next rally venue.
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