After being denied ticket, the former BJP leader was the first among party veterans to join the Lok Janshakti Party
After being denied ticket, former State BJP vice-president Rajendra Singh was the first among party veterans to join the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) to contest the Assembly poll from Dinara constituency in Rohtas district.
His move was followed by several other party leaders and it quickly triggered speculation that the top BJP leadership might give tacit support to them for any emerging post-poll calculations to form a government in Bihar, which LJP chief Chirag Paswan has repeatedly said will be “a BJP-LJP government this time”.
Though the BJP later expelled the nine leaders from the party to dispel the speculation, at the ground level, the party’s workers were seen distancing themselves from campaigning for the JD(U) candidates, especially in constituencies where such “expelled” party leaders are contesting the poll on LJP ticket.
“BJP-LJP saath saath hain [BJP and LJP are together]”, “Narendra Modi-Amit Shah zindabad” are slogans shouted by people accompanying the “expelled” BJP leaders at campaigns in remote areas of their constituencies.
At Dedhgaon village under Geedha panchayat of Dawath block in Dinara constituency, on October 16, when supporters of Mr. Singh assembled on the campus of the village panchayat and shouted slogans, Mr. Singh smiled a bit while looking at this correspondent and said something in the ear of one of his sloganeering supporters. “Chirag Paswan zindabad, Ram Vilas Paswan zindabad, LJP zindabad” too became part of the chorus.
“The BJP and RSS are in my blood and veins…I have been there for last 37 years…I’ve dedicated my whole life for RSS-BJP”, Mr. Singh told The Hindu on the occasion.
When told that the same party not only denied ticket but also expelled him, Mr. Singh kept mum. “Though, I’ve a lot of pain inside, I have no grudges against anyone”, he said. “I’ve nothing to say on this”, he added, after a long pause.
“Will you be joining the BJP again after winning the poll?” Mr. Singh — again after a long pause — quipped, “Only time will tell…who knows what will happen in future?”.
“Did you meet BJP leader Amit Shah before joining LJP?” He once again kept mum for a while and said, “No such meeting took place”.
Mr. Singh’s main party office at a local hotel-cum-marriage hall at Dinara bazaar, however, has no party flag unfurled or cut-outs, hoardings and posters put up outside. A few vehicles, though, were parked outside and a few people were chatting and taking rest on the ground floor, while rooms on the first floor were occupied by young workers busy forming the campaign plan on the computer with printouts and details of the constituency.
In the 2015 election, Mr. Singh, who was said to be the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP, lost by a thin margin of nearly 2,000 votes to JD(U) candidate Jai Kumar Singh. Mr. Singh got over 62,000 votes while Mr. Jai Kumar Singh got 64,000. Mr. Jai Kumar Singh later became IT minister in Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet and is contesting as NDA candidate for the fourth time from the Dinara constituency.
Near Natwar village of the constituency, Mr. Jai Kumar Singh’s cavalcade was escorted by hundreds of bike borne youths unfurling flags of the BJP and JD(U) on their two-wheeler vehicle. When asked, they denied they were BJP workers. “Humlog mantriji ke supporter hain…BJP mantriji ko support kar rahi hai [we’re supporters of the minister…BJP is supporting the minister]”, they yelled and sped away.
Besides these two contenders, RJD candidate Vijay Mandal too has been making his presence felt on the battlefield. The Dinara constituency has about 55, 000 voters of Rajput caste — to which both Mr. Rajendra Singh and Mr. Jai Kumar Singh belong — and 40,000 Yadav, 15,000 Paswan, 10,000 Kushwaha, 15,000 Brahmin and 6,000 Bhumihar voters.
Mr. Rajendra Singh from Gaura village of the constituency too was seen riding on a motorcycle at Dedhgaon and Hathdiha villages and meeting people individually, touching the feet of elders and greeting others with folded hands.
At the village panchayat building campus, he also asked a young supporter to show the villagers a video that had recently gone viral on social media, in which NDA candidate Jai Kumar Singh is allegedly heard telling people that earlier he was known for moving with rifles packed in five vehicles and those opposing him were badly thrashed.
“Now you all should decide whether you want to elect a person who talks about goli-banduk [guns and cartridges] or a person who always has been with you through thick and thin during the last five years, even after losing the poll?”, he asked villagers, and they chorused, “This time you will be our choice, no one else”.
Mr. Singh also listed out the work done by him for the constituency, from construction of roads to medical help. “He has been the only leader who responds to our call and comes to meet us on our invitation whenever we wish”, said a villager Vikas Singh.
But what are the other issues of his constituency he wants to address, if elected? “One of the main issues will be to address the farmers’ problem…you know, this area has famously been known as ‘the rice bowl of Bihar’, for its abundant paddy production, and had over hundreds of rice mills here, but today it has only three-four rice mills”. Why? “Because of the pathetic approach of the State government”, he added promptly.
Does he support the farm laws introduced by the NDA government at the Centre recently? “Yes, they are pro-farmer and a good step by the government for the welfare of the farmers of the country”, he said.
Dinara goes to the polls in the first phase on October 28.