For the first time, a people’s lifeline that lived through wars, Indian Independence, Partition, Jharkhand’s statehood movement and chugged from one century to the next, will see the Lok Sabha elections as a passenger train.
As Lohardaga Mail — it started plying in 1907 — the train saw all elections till 2004, but missed the 2009 one as it was being converted from narrow to broad gauge. In 2010, the beloved “chhoti line train” grew up into a “passenger” and got eight bogies added to its original six.
With the Great Indian Ballot Battle having started on Monday with the Northeast, The Telegraph team decided to board one of the most beloved trains of the region, Ranchi-Lohardaga passenger train.
At 9.35am, the train was abuzz with some 5,000 people crammed across 14 bogies.
The last-minute excitement was palpable. Lohardaga ST reserved seat would go on polls on April 10. Ramnavami celebrations would take over on Tuesday, leaving only Wednesday for poll arrangements.
Till Argora, the next stop, passengers were settling down, showing tickets to the TT.
At Piska, around 9.55am, many men of the minority community boarded the train. Asked, Lohardaga resident Nazir Khan said: “Of course, I will vote for a secular leader.”
At Itki, some 20 minutes later, Class IX students of a private school joyfully hopped on board. “School’s closed till April 14 for polls,” said Samir Kumar (15), Tangar Basli resident. “My father and grandfather go to vote but mother says it is a waste of time.”
At Tangar Basli at 10.15am, a new passenger, sahiya Sangeeta Devi (25) is most annoyed. She had filled Form 6, but apparently her name was missing from the voter list.
The discussion gets animated from Tangar Basli onwards and becomes louder as the train crosses the well-worn route of Narkopi, Nagjua, Akashi, Irgaon and finally Lohardaga.
A young man, who identified himself as Dinesh, cockily asked The Telegraph: “Vote dalne ka koi fayda hai? Chunao aa gaya to ee train mein chadhne aa gaye, kabhi aise bhi dekhe hain ki hum log kaise chalte hain? (What’s the use of voting? It’s election time so you have boarded the train. Otherwise, would you bother?)”
Another passenger, Habibulah Ansari, said he would vote Congress. “Ka garentee hai ki BJP ko jitayenge to wo humlogon ka dhyan dega? Lohardaga Congressi hai, BJP to galti se jeet gaya tha pichhle baar. Mera number rakh lijiye. Jab Congress jeet jayega to badhai dene ke liye phone kijiyega. (BJP can’t guarantee if it will look after us. Lohardaga has always been a Congress stronghold. BJP won last time by mistake. This time Congress will win. Keep my phone number and congratulate me when Congress wins),” he said.
Another passenger, Nazir Khan differed. “Both Trinamul and BJP candidates, Chamra Linda and Sudarshan Bhagat, have their support bases. Congress has its own. It will be a big fight,” he said.
Raziwan Nisha (65) said she would cast her vote. “My three sons and two grandsons, all voters, would take me to the booth. I will vote whoever they ask me to,” she said simply.
Senior citizen Shrawan Kumar, a retired postmaster of Ranchi’s Badgain, lives alone in Lohardaga now.
Embittered with every party, he said: “I do not believe in Modi wave. People are tired with Congress so they will now vote for BJP. So will I.”