Bandhu Tirkey interacts with Banapiri villagers near Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
As Titans prepare to clash for the Ranchi hot seat, Trinamul Congress (TMC) nominee Bandhu Tirkey is falling back on Lalu-fashioned sentiments and jibes to keep party hopes afloat.
He is rarely seen sweet-talking any urban and elite voter. Instead, he darts from one starved rural pocket to another, wooing tribal and minority communities. On Wednesday, he campaigned in Banapiri, Madanpur, Murcho, Mandna Toli, Kanauj and a few other places, 30km from the district headquarters and all dominated by either tribals or Muslims.
On why he was staying away from urban limits, Tirkey’s answer reflected what actor Irrfan Khan tells a reporter in the movie Paan Singh Tomar.
The reel rebel had said, “Bihad mein toh baghee hote hain (Revolutionists are found in the wild)”. Tirkey echoed, “Gaon mein jamini neta aur gareeb ka beta dikhta hai, shahar mein to hawawaaz hote hain (Real leaders and sons of the soil are from villages, cities are teeming with showoffs.”
The rural pockets where the Independent MLA-turned-TMC candidate is campaigning are extensions of Thakurgaon in Burmu block, some 20km from his home borough Mandar. Having represented this Assembly constituency, he believes he has a natural claim over the area.
Ever since he merged his fledgling political outfit Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch with the TMC, Tirkey has been swearing by his new boss, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, in rural Ranchi. On Wednesday afternoon, it was the turn of Muslim-dominated Banapiri, which also is home to Kurmis and Brahmins, to lap up some Mamata dose.
Sitting at the chaupal (village square) under a banyan tree, with 50-odd villagers paying rapt attention, Tirkey unleashed his rhetoric — mastered during his years of tutelage under RJD boss Lalu Prasad. He used antics, bantering, right expressions and right issues to convince the unlettered masses.
Pointing to a TMC flag with a picture of Mamata, he said: “Know this lady? This is our Mamata didi. She voices problems of the poor and downtrodden (like you).”
Tirkey continued: “So called secular parties don’t want Muslim boys to rise beyond selling eggs and repairing punctured tyres. I always wanted you to get better jobs, but others didn’t pay heed because they didn’t wish to annoy their urban supporters”
Before leaving, he asks his audience to raise hands if they wished to vote for him. The crowd dutifully obliges. But, community elders like Mustafa are not sure whether they will indeed vote for the TMC. “He is a local lad and hence, we have feelings for him. But, we can’t say whether we will vote his party. We have to meet and decide,” Mustafa said.
Chandan Tiwari, a local youth preparing for civil services, however, claimed that Tirkey was likely to get heavy tribal support.
This probably is the reason why the JVM has decided to bring its Lohardaga candidate, Virendra Bhagat, who is a local resident, to canvass for Amitabh Choudhary.
Tirkey is aware of the JVM’s game plan and is trying to convince villagers in his favour.
“JVM bahut sthaniyata ka baat karta hai lekin election ladane ke liye ek Darbhangia pundit le aaya. Woh kya tumhara bhala karega (JVM speaks of local sentiments, but has fielded a Darbhanga-based candidate. What can he do to help you people),” he pokes fun at Choudhary who originally hails from the Bihar town.
Kanauj was Tirkey’s next stop, where a thin crowd at a middle school was waiting for him. The MP hopeful used the lean chance to take pot shots at his Ajsu rival Sudesh Mahto who he dubbed a “mahathag (a big cheat)”.
Tirkey did not spare sitting Congress MP Subodh Kant Sahay or BJP veteran Ram Tahal Choudhary either. His Lalu-style jabs at them sent his sparse audience chortling.
Before wrapping up his day, he also made a final appeal like his erstwhile mentor: “EVM mein mera number aath hai; chunav nishan dekh lo. Jaise hi machine se peee ki awaz ayegi samjho ki tumhare Bandhuwa ko vote ho gaya. Humka jitao hum tumhara awaz banenge (My number is eight on the EVM; this is my symbol. As soon as the EVM beeps, rest assured you have voted for your Bandhu. Vote for me and I will become your voice).”