Vintage vroom in Hatia bypoll - Ford that ferried Gandhi to Ramgarh rolls out for Cong in capital today

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  • Published 9.06.12

Cars and campaigns make happy alliance. And the Hatia by-election is no different. But, the Congress certainly will steal an edge over its rivals, courtesy some vintage luck.

A Ford car owned by a Ranchi family that once drove Mahatma Gandhi to the famous Ramgarh Congress will roll out on capital roads on Saturday to garner support for the party contesting the June 12 bypoll.

The four-seater convertible — imported from England in 1922 by then shellac king the Late Rai Saheb Laxminarayan Jaiswal — is still the most coveted possession of the family in the time of uber-luxe cars. Aditya Vikram Jaiswal, the great grandson of Laxminarayan and present owner of the Ford, said necessary repairs were being carried out to make the vintage vehicle campaign-worthy.

“Our family is a traditional Congress supporter. Many of my ancestors have been leaders of the party. So, we decided to campaign for our party in the very car that drove Gandhiji from Ranchi to Ramgarh for the Indian National Congress in 1940. We will start our trail from Birsa Chowk and end it in Doranda, urging people to vote for the party,” the scion of the Jaiswal family, which boasts at least 15 vintage cars, said.

The family campaign, as Aditya Vikram likes to put it, will begin from Birsa Chowk — 3km from the Jaiswals’ ancestral residence near Distillery Bridge on Lalpur-Kokar road — around 11am and the vintage car will complete its 2km tour in about an hour.

Though it will be for the Congress, the campaign from Birsa Chowk to Doranda, which fall under the Hatia Assembly constituency, will be by the Jaiswal family. The only outsider invited is veteran Congress leader and Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay whose brother Sunil is the party hopeful for the hot seat. The latter, however, has not been invited. Sahay is yet to confirm his availability.

The vintage Ford is, currently, in the able hands of garage mechanic Samsad Siddique in Lalpur. “The engine is still a roar. All we need to change are tyres and seats. And the car is ready for a spin,” said Siddique.

Originally from Jamalpur in Uttar Pradesh, the Jaiswals migrated to Jharkhand two centuries ago allured by huge potentials in the shellac business in the region. The decision turned the fortunes of the family, which set up a huge empire in shellac and later on in liquor businesses.

Second generation scion Laxminarayan, whose father Late Rai Bahadur Thakurdas had migrated to Ranchi, scaled up the business to great heights. In 1922, he became the first non-British to own a Ford car.

In 1940, when the Mahatma came to Ranchi, he visited ailing Thakurdas and then proceeded for the congress. Laxminarayan, also a strong nationalist, grabbed the opportunity to drive the leader 45km to Ramgarh. Among the richest families in Ranchi once, the Jaiswals have immensely contributed to the freedom movement donating land and gold, among other things.

“We have many cars, but the Ford gives us a surge of nostalgia. We attach a lot of sentiment to this particular vintage vehicle. I cannot throw light on how much the car had cost when it was imported in 1922, but today it is priceless,” Aditya Vikram said, adding that besides the Mahatma, Indian Presidents Rajendra Prasad and Zakir Hussain too had honoured the ride.

Will the vintage campaign prove lucky for Congress?