BJP's Ranchi nominee Ram Tahal Choudhary greets a Namkum resident during his padyatra in Ranchi on Sunday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Twice bitten, septuagenarian BJP nominee for Ranchi constituency Ram Tahal Choudhary threatens to tie arch-rival and sitting Congress MP Subodh Kant Sahay to a tree. That is, if Choudhary finds Sahay is up to any “dirty tricks” to win the polls.
The man who enjoyed a clean sweep through the 1990s — he won Lok Sabha polls in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999 — Choudhary lost to Sahay in 2004 and 2009.
Defeat margins were thin — 15,421 votes in 2004 and 13,350 in 2009 — but Choudhary knows in 2014 he must convert his BJP ticket into a victory for his political survival. Age is not on his side.
He says the NaMo wave is his biggest strength. And to no small extent, anti-incumbency that arch-rival Subodh Kant bears as his political cross.
If he is worried about Ajsu’s Sudesh Mahto and JVM’s Amitabh Choudhary as strong contenders, he doesn’t show it.
Political watchers said Choudhary seldom campaigned in rural areas before. Now, he is wooing his hinterland electorate, calling them his “trusted core” and travelling across all six Assembly segments — Ranchi, Khijri, Kanke, Hatia, Ichagarh and Silli.
On Sunday, The Telegraph accompanied his campaign trail in Jorar, a semi-urban pocket in Namkum. Tongue dipped in vitriol, Choudhary rants against rival Sahay’s non-performance the last 10 years and slammed his alleged “dirty tricks”.
Speaking at the Jorar election office, Choudhary alleged: “Sahay stage-managed tampering of EVM machines at Ichagarh booths. Even during vote counting, power supply was disrupted for 10 minutes so that Sahay could switch EVM machines. This time, we are alert. Sahay is finished.”
Preparing for a padyatra, BJP members Pintu Singh, Rinku Singh, Raju Gope, Sintu Sao, Ajeet Kumar and Santosh Kumar join for an animated chat, their poll predictions ranging from Ranchi to Rajkot.
Senior BJP leader Naveen Soni shared his worry. “Electing regional parties will be a great disadvantage for India,” he says, mentioning Sudesh.
Apparently, Sudesh tried to lure some BJP workers. “Sudesh is creeping like an ant in rural areas. Mahto votes will be split,” said one BJP worker.
Choudhary flatly dismisses Sudesh. Yet, when workers mention anti-Sudesh slogans like “Sudesh rah jayega Silli mein Ram Tahal jayega Dilli mein (Sudesh will stay on at Silli, Ram Tahal will go to Delhi) and Adha roti tawa mein Sudesh udega hawa mein (half-cooked bread in pan, Sudesh will be tossed in the wind),” Choudhary rebukes them.
“Why are you people taking his name repeatedly? It will only increase his market value. We will reserve the second slogan to teach him a lesson during Assembly polls (Silli being Sudesh’s Assembly seat),” Choudhary said.
He added Sudesh was “always Sahay’s man” and “Congress dummy”. “In his own Assembly constituency, people advised him not to contest against me,” he said.
It’s time for the padyatra at Jorar Bank Street Colony, Titri Tola and Srinagar Colony.
Choudhary knocks on every door, requesting people to vote for him and Narendra Modi. He stops at Hanuman temple at Srinagar Colony and gets blessed by priest Jeebach Choudhary.
Perceived as a tightwad who didn’t spend on food and refreshments for party workers, the well-off Choudhary, who runs a string of educational institutions, is also mending his ways. “Iss baar khane peene ke paise mil rahe hain (We are getting money for food),” grinned a BJP worker.