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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

I’m fighting Lalu and his 'masks', it’s guerrilla warfare: BJP candidate Rajiv Pratap Rudy

Seeking a fifth term in the Lok Sabha, Rudy is pitted against Lalu Prasad's daughter Rohini Acharya, 44, a debutant. In an interview with The Telegraph in the middle of the campaign, he says the daughter is 'only a mask' and that he is actually fighting Lalu

J.P. Yadav Amnour (Saran) Published 18.05.24, 07:01 AM
Rudy at his ancestral home in Amnour under the Saran Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar.

Rudy at his ancestral home in Amnour under the Saran Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar. Picture by JP Yadav

In a political career spanning nearly four decades, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has mostly battled Lalu Prasad and his family members from his native Chhapra (now Saran) in north Bihar.

Apart from an active politician, he is also a licensed commercial pilot, holds a law degree and has been a college lecturer. He became an MLA 34 years ago at the age of 28, and was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996 from Chhapra. He was among the youngest faces in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Modi appointed him as a minister in 2014 but dropped him in 2017.

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Seeking a fifth term in the Lok Sabha, Rudy is pitted against Lalu's daughter Rohini Acharya, 44, a debutant. In an interview with The Telegraph in the middle of the campaign, he says the daughter is "only a mask" and that he is actually fighting Lalu. Up against simmering voter anger, he appears to be banking heavily on the "Modi factor" to see him through.

Q: Is this election different from the many you have contested from here in the past?

Rudy: For me, it's the same because I'm always contesting Lalu Prasad Yadav. The body keeps changing but the inside is the same. I have contested the father (Lalu), his wife (Rabri Devi), the father-in-law (Chandrika Rai, father-in-law of Lalu’s son) and now the daughter.

I don’t know how many family members are left to be contested. It should go into Guinness... because I don’t think so many members from one family have contested against one person (anywhere else).

Q: But do you see a bigger challenge this time?

Rudy: Well, you should ask this to them (Lalu and family), because I'm sitting here and they come and join me for the election to unseat me. A challenge is only for those who enter the election. For me, it's a constant fight, nothing unusual.

Q: What is the main issue you are pitching?

Rudy: Mine is not a new issue. It's for a first-timer to flag new issues. Mine is an ongoing process, as it is for the Prime Minister. Most things committed have been delivered. We have spent Rs 33,000 crore (on the development of Saran). Most projects have been concluded, some tenders awarded, some are in the DPR (detailed project report) stage and a lot more are in the pipeline. It's not an overnight dream, it's a continuous process.

Q: Are you depending on your work or the Modi factor?

Rudy: Well, the Modi factor is always there and the surge is because of that. The rest of the things are for the people to decide.

Look, when the BJP decides on a candidate, it tests whether the candidate has a good enough connect with the people or not. There are 113 people (sitting MPs) who have been denied tickets this time. So if they have chosen me to contest they must have definitely found out that I have the ground connection... lives in a village, performs in Parliament, he is visible on social media, print media and television media, he is articulate, works for the people and is of integrity. All these parameters are considered before a candidate is picked.

And, of course, I belong to a particular community (Rajput or Thakur caste) which matters here also. So it’s a combination (of several factors). And, I have the experience of contesting (Lalu and his family).

It's guerrilla warfare for me with Lalu. You never know where he will attack, how he will attack, where he will jump from, what he will uproot, what faces he will wear, what mask he will come with. So it's guerrilla warfare of Lalu with me and I keep on fighting.

Q: You are flagging an increase in Muslim and Yadav voters in the constituency. Is it unusual?

Rudy: Yes, it's unusual. There has been a surge in voters of a particular social combination and that is a matter of great concern.

Q: What do you mean by social combination?

Rudy: The "MY" (Muslim-Yadav) factor: polling booths which have a high concentration of Muslims and Yadavs.

Q: Are you pointing towards malpractices?

Rudy: I don’t know. However, there is a pattern which is visible in the constituency. This happened when Tejashwi was the deputy CM.

Q: Have you complained to the poll panel?

Rudy: We noticed it after the final publication of the voters list and there was no time to complain and get it probed.

Q: Do you sense a lot of anti-incumbency against you? Because many voters have been complaining against your performance.

Rudy: That is for you to find out. But please remember that there are over five-and-a-half lakh (MY) voters in this constituency who have always been absolutely against me. So I don’t know who the voters you have been meeting are. So if you meet my opponents, there will always be anti-incumbency.

The amount of work done in Chhapra has been phenomenal. The general people will tell you that what has happened in this constituency hasn’t happened anywhere else. If you see the roads, if you see the electricity situation…. So, if you are meeting the people who are anyway going to oppose me, then… and their numbers are huge.

Q: No, I have met people who complain against you but say they will still vote for you….

Rudy (interjecting): No, they should not vote for me if they are unhappy with me and Modiji.

Q: The voters complaining against you were from a social combination favourable to the BJP, and they said they had a lot of issues with you but could still end up pressing the lotus button because of the Modi factor, because they want to see Modi as Prime Minister again.

Rudy: Do you think I will ever disagree on this? It's hundred per cent Modi. We (the BJP candidates) are no one. There is no confusion.

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