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Nitish-Lalu bonhomie has spawned Jai-Veeru duos across Bihar

Aditya Menon | Updated on: 6 November 2015, 18:18 IST
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The apprehension

  • Before the election, there was an apprehension that JD(U) and RJD workers couldn\'t work together
  • However, the synergy between grand alliance workers has been exceptional

The bonhomie

  • Many JD(U) and RJD workers have worked as a team at the grassroots
  • Seeing the Nitish-Lalu bonhomie, the workers also saw themselves as Sholay\'s Jai and Veeru

More in the story

  • What made RJD workers accept Nitish as their leader
  • Why JD(U) workers found it easier to deal with RJD as allies than the BJP

Rajkumar Yadav and Rafique make a dramatic entry in front of the Darbhanga bus stand in the evening, with illuminated posters of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) on their backs.

Everyone is curious to know what these unidentified shining objects are and, in no time, a crowd gathers around them. The duo is loving the attention.

"Dekhiye sab koi hai isme (everyone is there in the poster): Nitishji, Laluji, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi," Rafique proudly tells the people gathered.

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"Is baar Mahagathbandhan hee jeetega (the Grand Alliance will win this time)," Rajkumar adds, almost on cue.

It isn't just these political leaders that the Grand Alliance has brought together. The synergy displayed by the workers of the three parties has been exceptional.

Friendship in the time of elections

Take Rajkumar and Rafique for instance. While the former is an RJD worker, the latter belongs to the JD(U).

"We campaign together during the day as well. We distribute and circulate the publicity material given to us. Sometimes we also take part in door-to-door campaigning," Rafique says.

"We feel like Jai and Veeru from 'Sholay' ... but the real Jai and Veeru are Nitishji and Laluji," Rajkumar says.

On being asked which one among Nitish and Lalu is Jai and which one is Veeru, they burst into laughter. The answer is evident.

Thoroughly enjoying their own joke, they begin deliberating who Gabbar Singh is and the names of the BJP's top two come up. The candidates for Samba and Kaalia are largely from the saffron party's state unit.

While Jai and Veeru were the protagonists of the iconic 1975 Hindi film, Gabbar was the villain-in-chief; Samba and Kaalia his henchmen.

No thought of party lines

Sholay jokes apart, this bonhomie between RJD and JD(U) cadres and, to a lesser extent, Congress workers, could be seen across the state.

Mohammad Alamgir is an RJD worker in the Sursand constituency in Sitamarhi district. In the middle of the election campaign, he went for a pilgrimage to the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer. "I went to pray for the Mahagathbandhan's victory," he says.

In Alamgir's absence, two JD(U) workers - Mohammad Naseem and Sanjay - took over his share of the work.

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"We all worked as a team. No one ever thought on party lines. The fact that I am from the RJD and they are from the JD(U) never even came up," Alamgir says.

"Whenever there was a road show, we were all ready with our bikes."

In most roadshows, vehicles carried the flags of all three parties.

The synergy

But how did such synergy come about, even though the alliance was formalised barely a few months before the elections?

"Last year's Lok Sabha results were a wake up call. The need to stop Narendra Modi is greater than all our little rivalries. Our leaders understood this," says Alamgir.

Another reason is ideology. There is very little ideological difference between the RJD and the JD(U), both of which are offshoots of the Janata Dal. And the Congress, being a marginal entity in Bihar, isn't viewed negatively by the workers of either of the parties.

It isn't just political leaders that the Grand Alliance has brought together; it's the workers too

"In fact we used to find it difficult to deal with the BJP, especially when its leaders like Giriraj Singh made communal statements," says JD(U) worker Shahid Alam.

Partly, the directive also came from Nitish's office. He is said to have instructed his party leaders to treat RJD and Congress workers as their own.

Also, even though campaign manager Prashant Kishore and his team have been hired by the JD(U), they did help out RJD and Congress candidates as well, but obviously not to the same extent as their primary client.

Accepting leadership

A major conflict was averted because of Lalu Prasad's conviction in the fodder scam. Many RJD workers say had Lalu been in a position to contest, they wouldn't have accepted Nitish as their leader so readily.

Nitish's positive personal image has helped matters. Many RJD and Congress workers admit that they never had a negative opinion of Nitish, even when they were in separate camps.

It is 28 October, polling day in Patna. Dilip Paswan, a district level Congress functionary, is locked in a fierce debate with his neighbour at the Kamla Nehru Vihar in the city. The neighbour, a BJP supporter, made a disparaging remark about Nitish Kumar, which angered Paswan.

On being asked why he was getting agitated, Paswan said, "Nitish Kumar is my leader in Bihar. People say I should support Ram Vilas Paswan. Why should I support him just because he belongs to my caste?"

The message seems to have percolated to every level.

The real challenge

From the manner in which Nitish declared the candidates for all the Grand Alliance parties, to how the workers are collaborating on the ground, the alliance has managed to run a very tight ship.

Of course, the real test would be keeping the alliance together, irrespective of whether they win or lose.

As far as Rajkumar and Rafique are concerned, they are sure their friendship will survive any changes in the larger political equations.

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First published: 6 November 2015, 18:18 IST
 
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