|Thin attendance: The sparse gathering at the JDU-RJD meeting in Vaishali on Monday. Telegraph picture
Blame it on a remote village or the punctuality of leaders but the fact remains that even Lalu Prasad, the country’s biggest crowd-puller till a few years ago, failed to draw supporters during the reunion with the JDU after almost two decades yesterday.
Nitish Kumar’s presence on stage at the Sabhai Jamalpur village did not help a massive gathering either.
“It was supposed to be a turning point in Bihar politics when two of its tallest leaders had joined hands and were ready for their first public appearance together after more than two decades. One expected that the presence of the two crowd-pullers would have the venue spilling over. But the turnout was pathetic. It shows that the fusion of supporters and members of both the parties still has not taken place,” said a senior RJD leader.
The selection of the remote village, around 12km from Vaishali district headquarters Hajipur, has also baffled leaders of both the parties.
One of them said a public meeting in Hajipur itself would have resulted in a much better turnout.
“The village is the place where one of Bihar’s tallest socialist leaders Basawon Singh grew up. It has a tradition of being a socialist stronghold and therefore it was the natural choice for a meeting, which marked the reunion of two socialist champions of the state,” said a JDU MLC, adding that the second meeting at Mohiuddinagar drew far more people than the one in Hajipur.
An RJD leader came up with a different yet practical logic. “Both Nitish and Lalu arrived at the Hajipur venue at 12noon — the exact time of the meeting. People here expect a leader to be one to two hours late,” said the leader.
Punctuality at public rallies is hardly the key to draw massive crowds, as popular leaders and the main speakers usually arrive several hours late to address their supporters.
The same excitement among people was witnessed during the recent Lok Sabha elections campaign.
The JDU state president, Bashishtha Narayan Singh, attributed the poor show to lack of planning and publicity. “We shall make amends for later joint meetings,” he said.
Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi said Lalu and Nitish joining hands was “auspicious” for the state. He said he would join the leaders in their next joint rallies ahead of the August 21 by-elections. “I shall join them in their joint public meetings later.”
The RJD and the JDU leaders are doubtful about the lack of cooperation among the party workers. LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and RJD chief Lalu remained allies for five years — right from 2009 to early 2014.
“However, despite addressing public rallies jointly, the two parties did not do well in elections because of a section of the RJD supporters refusing to support the LJP candidates and vice-versa. One of the main reasons for Paswan losing in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls is the fact that the Yadavs — one of the major votebanks of the RJD — did not support him despite the alliance. It was one of the major reasons for Paswan to shift back to the NDA,” said an RJD leader, wondering if the RJD and the JDU leaders would meet the same fate — sooner or later.
The opposition BJP appears ecstatic about the apparent flop show. “The two have come together after 20 years but the people are not ready to listen to them. The meeting in Hajipur resembled simple street-corner show. It has become clear that the two cannot fool the people anymore,” said BJP veteran Sushil Kumar Modi.
Modi added that it was impossible for Nitish to transfer his vote to the RJD. “In the last Lok Sabha polls, Lalu could not get a single section of the extremely backward class (EBC) or Dalit votes because they were the most ignored lot in the 15 years of the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi raj. The two leaders have joined hands but their voters will not,” Modi said.