Congress candidate Subodh Kant Sahay campaigns in Ranchi on Thursday. (Hardeep Singh)
This is going to be an incomplete election picture for Ranchi’s sitting Congress MP Subodh Kant Sahay.
For, younger brother Sunil Sahay, who was always his shadow in poll campaigns in the past, is conspicuous by his absence in the run-up to Lok Sabha 2014.
Sunil whom big brother Sahay dotingly refers to as “mera chhota bhai, mera Hanuman” has taken adequate precautions to remain off stage to deny police the remotest chance of zeroing in on him in the 2013 Ranchi mayoral poll cash muddle. Nevertheless, Sunil is omnipresent behind the scenes, supervising the Congress heavyweight’s election sway.
Sahay, a former Union minister, is locked in a tough quadrangle battle, with JVM nominee and JSCA boss Amitabh Choudhary, BJP veteran Ram Tahal Choudhary and Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto throwing down the gauntlet to him.
No wonder the official residence of the Congress MP at E29 Dhurwa Sector III looked like a battle base bustling with activities on Thursday. A bunch of loyalists was seen shuffling newspapers over chai-nasta (tea and snacks). Their primary job is to read reports and gauge the sitting MP’s prospects and, needless to say, speculation was rife.
“Dekhiye iss baar vote ke liye bahut maramari hoga. Lekin jeetenge to bhaiya hi kyun ki unke jaisa behtar aur sarv-sulabh candidate koi nahi hai (Look, there will be a tough contest this time, but the ultimate winner will be Sahay because no candidate is as good as him),” said one of the supporters.
There was a scurry to begin the day’s campaign as soon as Sahay emerged from a closed-door meeting at 9.30am.
The weather and hectic schedule seemed to have taken a toll on his health. He looked paler and had dark patches under the eyes.
“My haemoglobin count has dropped suddenly and the doctor has advised rest. But how can I? I am fighting conspirators here. My enemies have joined hands to put me in a chakravyuh (an epic war strategy from where there is no escape). But, I love such battles,” Sahay told The Telegraph.
On whether he was missing his “Hanuman” and believed Sunil was at fault, the MP retorted: “Bakwas hai, conspiracy hai, tigramvazo ne mil kar usse fasaya hai (It is all a conspiracy. He has been framed).”
The big brother added: “Sunil is here in Ranchi and is quietly doing what is needs to do to help me in this election. He has always extended his support. Rumourmongers are saying he is evading arrest, which is not true. The high court has quashed the arrest warrant against him. The truth will reveal itself one day.”
But, as his car wended its way through the capital, Sahay sank into deep thought where Sunil perhaps figured.
At Hinoo Chowk 15 minutes later, he was jolted out of his reverie by schoolchildren rallying in support of exercising voting rights. Sahay asked his driver to slow down as the students marched by with placards that read “use your vote wisely, vote for honest candidates”.
“Children are doing a good job. People must vote for a good candidate. I am fighting against communal and opportunistic forces. Do you think my opponents are worthy to be taken seriously?” he lobs a question.
Without waiting for an answer, Sahay launches a tirade against his Ajsu challenger. “He (Sudesh Mahto) is too ambitious. He can go to any extent to win an election — from pumping big money (in campaigns) to purchasing voters. Remember how they (Ajsu) splashed money in the 2012 Hatia Assembly by-election to defeat Sunil?”
In the same breath, the sitting MP took on Trinamul Congress nominee Bandhu Tirkey.
“See this man of the TMC who has sold off his tribal brethren to Mamata Banerjee. He is eyeing my tribal, Muslim and Christian votes. He is dreaming too much. But, I tell you today that this is going to be a BJP-Congress fight. All those who are on the side of communal forces will be exposed. Look at Amitabh Choudhary… the once votary of Narendra Modi is now talking of secularism.”
The only breaks Sahay took from scathing attacks on opponents were when his car passed by temples. For, every time it did, he bowed for blessings. Critics may say “divine intervention”.
Around 10.30am, the MP headed for the state Congress headquarters on Shradhanand Road, where some people were set to join the party in his presence. All were local residents and their self-styled leaders like councillor of ward No. 17 Salauddin Ansari.
The day done, Sahay returned home for a closed-door meeting with his backroom boys around 2pm.
In the crowd at the Congress office, some were familiar faces of bargain hunters. These people attend party rallies for good money. One of them, who identified himself as Ranjeet Kumar, was asked whether he would vote for Sahay. The reply was interesting. “Woh jab aatey hai to chhite udate hai (When he comes he splurges).”