Narendra Singh Dhoni, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sudesh Mahto and Ajsu candidate Navin Jaiswal in Ranchi on Wednesday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, June 7: If Congress is keen on giving a Bolly twist to its campaign trail, Ajsu isn’t shy of pulling out the “Sikkimese Sniper”.
The major parties are roping in star campaigners — politicians and celebrities — to outdo each other in wooing the electorate with merely five days to go for the Hatia bypoll.
Faced with defections and slurs against Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay, whose brother Sunil is the party nominee, Congress leaders from New Delhi are flying in almost everyday to boost campaigns.
Before returning to New Delhi today, party general secretary Oscar Fernandes campaigned in various parts of the constituency, while Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal arrived by a service flight in the evening.
But the party’s trump card is set to be actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar, who is expected to lead the show tomorrow.
Amit Khan, a less-known artiste but easily recognisable for his striking resemblance to Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, is also part of the Congress bandwagon.
“I am a native of Daltonganj and was overwhelmed by the warm reception of people in Makhmandro, Chutia, Brambay and Kathitand in the last two days. I will be here till June 10,” he said.
Senior leader Alok Dube opined that desertion by state Mahila Congress leader Pratibha Pandey would not affect the party’s prospects in Hatia.
“I have campaigned in various parts of Hatia with our state unit president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu and Congress legislature party leader Rajendra Prasad Singh. We saw that not only is our traditional vote bank intact, but our support base has also improved significantly,” he said.
State Congress spokesman Rakesh Sinha said Pandey’s support base was confined to the HEC slum area. In HEC areas, too, Pandey had a rival in Urmila Yadav, who was contesting the bypoll, he added.
“She had tried all possible means to engineer Yadav’s defeat in the last urban civic body elections, but to no avail,” Sinha said.
He argued that Independent nominee and JMM dissenter Virendra Bhagat would split Ajsu’s tribal vote bank. “It will ultimately make way for a smooth victory for Sunil Sahay,” he added.
Ajsu, however, got none other than ace footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, the striker from Sikkim, to campaign for Navin Jaiswal yesterday. The former India captain, in his first ever election campaign, spoke at Doranda Bazar about his 13-year-old association with Mahto, the sports minister who also enjoys close ties with Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni’s brother Narendra also campaigned for Ajsu.
Mahto, who is leading the party’s campaign amid allegations of misusing money, claimed he had succeeded in bringing several supporters of Subodh Kant Sahay to Ajsu.
The Ajsu chief said Narendra was a party member while Bhaichung was “in regular touch with us”. “People will vote for our good work. I need not reveal my identity in my own home,” he added.
Meanwhile, new entrant Pratibha Pandey, senior party leaders and Bihar health minister Ashwini Choube also campaigned for BJP candidate Ramji Lal Sarda. They urged the electorate not to fall for promises and vulgar display of money power by other parties, adding that Sharda’s victory would further strengthen the Arjun Munda government.
For JVM, on the other hand, party supremo Babulal Marandi notched up a high number of election meetings.
“In rural areas, our main fight will be against Ajsu, while in urban areas it will be BJP. But our success appears almost certain because the traditional supporters of the erstwhile Ratu royalty will vote for us en bloc,” said JVM leader Pradeep Yadav on the prospects of Ajay Nath Shahdeo.