With slim numbers on the ground, Shatru rides on starry sheen, Lalu legacyhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/lok-sabha-elections-with-slim-numbers-on-the-ground-shatrughan-sinha-rides-on-starry-sheen-lalu-legacy-5731860/

With slim numbers on the ground, Shatru rides on starry sheen, Lalu legacy

In a tight battle between two Kayasthas for the Patna Sahib seat— two-term incumbent Sinha and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ravi Shankar Prasad — the film star retained almost no party workers when he crossed over. He’s now left with his core team and his family.

With slim numbers on the ground, Shatru rides on starry sheen, Lalu legacy
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Shatrughan Sinha at Patna, Thursday. (Express Photo by Alok Jain)

Earlier this week, BJP chief Amit Shah and Patna Sahib MP Shatrughan Sinha — who switched to the Congress fold a month ago — were staying on the third floor of the Maurya hotel. The difference in the coterie of the two leaders, however, was stark.

While Shah was in Room 324, with his almost 50-strong cadre spilling into the hallway, the “Bihari Babu” star was in Room 301 (a room designed for him), with only a paper-thin cohort.

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“After leaving the BJP, there is a shortage of men here,” said a professional helping coordinate Sinha’s campaign. “All the older Congress workers are not so active. And sir is also not so comfortable with them. Shor machane log nahin hain (There is nobody to make noise).”

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In a tight battle between two Kayasthas for the Patna Sahib seat— two-term incumbent Sinha and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ravi Shankar Prasad — the film star retained almost no party workers when he crossed over. He’s now left with his core team and his family. The contest will culminate on Sunday.

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But the Hindi heartland heartthrob still amasses a rambunctious crowd.“Bas dekhna nahin, chhu ke dekhna hain (I don’t want to just see him. I want to touch him and see),” one rally-goer exclaims.

“He sprinkles in that filmy shayari. Khamosh, wamosh kar ke, everyone becomes charged,” Sinha’s coordinator said. Sinha consistently campaigns on two issues: GST and demonetisation. When Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s Tejashwi Yadav, and Sinha spoke at a road show in Patna on Thursday, their speeches were along the same lines.

“This Sandeep furniture store you see here,” Gandhi said pointing to a store on Nala Road, where Sinha stays as well. “Modi did not just attack farmers, but Sandeep furniture as well. I say to Sandeep furniture that we will get rid of Gabbar Singh Tax [GST] and bring in one correct tax.”

Campaign coordinators told The Indian Express that Sinha’s team was hoping Priyanka Gandhi would make a final show before Sunday but Rahul came instead. Still the PM-hopeful brought immense crowds.

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To add to the dialogue delivery , the Grand Old Party is banking on Lalu Prasad — who had ousted them from the state in 1989. The former CM and imprisoned RJD supremo may have seen a slim presence at Gandhi’s show, but Sinha mentions him incessantly. “If not for me,vote for Laluji,” says Sinha at another rally. While Congress was able to wriggle back into the state as part of the Janata Dal (United)-RJD alliance in 2015, the party’s practically-nonexistent ground presence means it is still dependent on Lalu, say gathbandhan workers.

At a rally in Bhiknapahari, a student hub, RJD worker Prakash Raj Gupta says, “Everyone you see here is from RJD. And everyone, Yadavs especially, knows to vote for Lalu and the Congress.”