|RJD chief Lalu Prasad inspects election goodies at the party office in Patna on Wednesday and a dummy EVM. Pictures by Deepak Kumar
RJD president Lalu Prasad showed he was Misa Bharti’s concerned father first when he suddenly lost his cool while inspecting dummy EVMs at the party office on Wednesday.
Lalu, dressed in white kurta and pyjama, and donning sports shoes, reached the party office around 9.30am and headed straight for a stall selling RJD’s campaign goodies.
After inspecting the different things on sale, he turned towards a man accompanying him and told him: “All that you want is available here. Buy whatever you want and make sure they are displayed prominently where you campaign so that people vote for the party.”
Just then Lalu’s eyes fell on a dummy EVM. “What is this? Why is there a map of India on it? Does an EVM look like this? Mend it immediately or order fresh ones. It should look like an authentic EVM,” Lalu scolded the seller who agreed to replace them.
After a while, Lalu sat in front of the office and again called for the man selling the dummy EVMs. “What have you done? Do as I say. There has to be the picture of the lantern (the RJD’s symbol) and Misa Bharti’s name. This should be done immediately. Also, put the name of the constituency she is contesting from, Pataliputra. So, the sequence should be the party’s symbol, Misa Bharti’s name and the constituency. This needs to be done fast,” Lalu told his party workers firmly.
“Why are there serial numbers against the buttons? People in Bihar are poor and uneducated. These numbers will confuse them. What is going on? Remove them immediately,” Lalu said, sounding really angry now, as he shooed away some photographers who had started clicking his pictures.
The party’s state unit president, Ram Chandra Purbey, tried to explain later that Lalu’s intention was to ensure the party symbol was visible and not the candidate.
“It is not only about Misa Bharti. These are dummy EVMs meant to make voters understand. With Misa contesting from Pataliputra, Lalu just wanted to ensure the party symbol and candidate’s name are visible. He wanted her name and not serial numbers on the dummy machine. This will, however, be for all candidates, Purbey told The Telegraph.
He further said: “These battery-operated dummy machines will have the names of all RJD candidates and the party symbol for all to see. It is not just about Misa. All candidates are important and the party wants each of them to emerge victorious.”
But, in private, RJD sources admit the Pataliputra seat has become a prestige issue for the party.
“Ram Kripal’s exit has changed things a bit. But then Misa is working hard and people might be backing her as is apparent from her campaign and road shows. Indu Bushan Singh’s presence in the fray there might give Misa an advantage, but the party doesn’t rule out the fight will be tough in this constituency. As a father, it is natural for Lalu to be concerned about this seat and want Misa to win,” a party leader said.
Lalu wasted no time to appoint the dreaded Ritlal Yadav, presently lodged in Beur Central Jail, as the party’s general secretary the moment he sensed the toughie was preparing to contest as an Independent from Pataliputra. Yadav, who holds sway in the Danapur area, could have harmed the RJD’s prospects had he contested as an Independent.