| Kunal Singh campaigns at City Court in Patna City, a BJP bastion. Picture by Sachin |
Main aur sirf main hoon. Mera yaha koi competitor nahi hai (It is me and only me. I do not have any competitors here).
It’s certainly too early for such a premonition but Kunal Singh — Amitabh Bachchan of Bhojpuri films — has no qualms in saying so as he hoped on to the front seat of a white Scorpio amid slogans of “Kunal Singh zindabad” from his supporters.
Dressed in a pink, collared T-shirt and grey trousers, one could see drops of sweat trickling down his forehead and hitting his black Ray-Ban shades. “It is the heat. But if I do not go and meet people, who else will? Here, the sitting MP is hardly seen,” says Kunal, targeting BJP star Shatrughan Sinha — known for his trademark khamosh roar, who is contesting to retain the constituency of Patna Sahib.
Kunal, who addresses himself as “Kunal Singh Yadav”, has done wonders in the Bhojpuri film industry since 1977 with around 300 movies under his belt. “Look at his skin! It seems so perfect. Lagta hai make-up karke aaye hain. (It seems that he has applied make-up and come). Look at his hair. It is just like that of Bachchan. Abhi bhi smart hai par. (He is still smart),” a group of people murmurs as he passes by them with folded hands and a smile.
On a sultry Monday morning, Kunal decides to start his day by visiting lawyers crammed and scattered on the Patna City civil court premises. “My father Buddhadev Singh Yadav started his career as a lawyer. Then he turned to politics and served as an MLA and minister till 1990. To keep the tradition on, I have come to the court to interact with the lawyers,” Kunal tells The Telegraph as he walks along, reaching every possible table and room on the premises.
“Main kuch bhoolta nahi. Main woh aadmi nahi hoon jo seesh mahal me baithaa rahta hoon (I don’t forget anything. I am not the kind of person who just sits in a glass house all the time),” he tells one of them with folded hands.
As the lawyer, who looks a bit zapped, smile and folds his hands too, Kunal makes it a point to grab it softly.
“You see, this place is not in a good shape. The lawyers are mostly sitting in crammed rooms without electric fans or in the open in untidy corridors. Something needs to be done about it,” he says.
Just then, a group of persons in black coats come along and greet him. “Mujhe ek mauka dijiye,” Kunal tells them. “Main hoon Kunal Singh Yadav, the RJD-Congress gathbandhan ke umeedwaar. (Give me a chance. I am Kunal Singh Yadav, the candidate of the Congress-RJD alliance).”
Lawyers, who are known for their arguments, do not let him go so easily. “Kunalji, Shatrughan jaisa mat kariyega please. (Kunalji, please do not do like Shatrughan),” one of them pleads.
Kunal’s demeanour suddenly turns serious. “My first job will be to rectify this place and make it comfortable for you all. Main aaya raam, gaya raam nahi hoon. (I am not a person who will come once and then just vanish),” he says.
As he moves on, he continues: “You see the conditions here. You see the people's views on the current MP. This clearly shows that there is no connect with the people. This is unhealthy and has to be changed.”
Even today, Kunal has some five films for which he has dubbing pending. But the work is stalled because of the elections. He married Aarti Bhattacharya, a Bengali actress who worked with the likes of thespian Uttam Kumar, in 1979. They have a son, Akash.
It was an hour since he arrived at the court and Kunal was getting tired. He mumbles something to some of his followers and smiles again in front of a large group of lawyers. “Iss baar nahi toh fir kabhi bhi nahi. Yaad rakhiega. (If not this time, then it is going to be never. Please remember it),” Kunal says.
As he wipes the sweat from his face with a red towel, the actor gets fulsome in his praise of the Congress. “The BJP has done nothing but play the politics of division. It is only the Congress, which can offer a stable government,” he says.
Outside the court premises, an open truck stands among many more vehicles and around 50 people on motorbikes adorned with the Congress and the RJD flags. “I am going on a roadshow towards the Didarganj area. I know I will win,” he says, getting on the mini-truck, gulping down a bottle of water.
Someone gets him a bottle full of sugarcane juice, which was kept in a bag as a whole group of people, mostly those living on the streets looked at him in awe. “Humko naahi pataa kaun hai... par lagtaa hai bohot bada aadmi hai (I don’t know who he is but then he seems to be a very big man),” says a 60-year-old man who keeps staring at him.
Asked whether he would vote for him, he just smiles. “Aapko kahe bole ki hum kisko vote denge (Why should I tell you to whom I will vote for)?” he smiles and turned his back on the hullabaloo.
Patna Sahib votes on April 17