Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wrestler ready for bout, even if to spoil party

Promises of water & peace on lips, ‘son of soil’ asks for votes to overthrow outsiders in Buxar

Dadan Singh Pahalwan likes his milk. Lots of it, or more specifically, five litres a day.

The teacher-wrestler-turned-politician from Buxar representing the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), says milk keeps him going, both to keep him physically fit and to boost his confidence.

And confidence he needs given his past record — Dadan, in his early fifties, has never won a Lok Sabha election though he can play spoiler.

Jagdanand Singh of the RJD is the sitting MP and is fighting to retain the seat which he won by a slender margin in 2009. Taking on Jagda babu is the BJP’s Ashwini Kumar Choubey, health minister when his party was part of the alliance with Nitish Kumar.

For the BJP, Dadan, a Yadav by caste, is good news. The Buxar seat consists of Brahmins, Rajputs and Yadavs as the dominant castes. Dadan has fought from here twice and sliced into the RJD’s Yadav votes, paving the way for a BJP victory once. In the last Lok Sabha polls, he came a close third getting more than one lakh votes and reducing Jagdanand’s victory to a wafer-thin margin.

During the campaign trail in scorching heat — the temperatures often touch 41 degrees Celsius — Dadan, accompanied by lathi-wielding bodyguards, seeks muttha (butter milk) and gulps it down. His diehard supporters make arrangements for the desi (local) soft drink for him at every place where he is supposed to address the voters.

Dadan’s “muttha campaign” seems to have taken a cue from his “one rupee, one vote” rally in the past. Dadan seeks muttha and a vote for himself and also to strengthen the hands of Mayawati — popularly called Behenji by her supporters.

Dadan, contesting from Buxar for the third time, starts his campaign at 9am and returns home late in the night. “I have not been able to exercise (wrestling) for the past several weeks due to the hectic schedule. But I prefer to move on foot during campaigns,” he says.

Dadan has three cows and a horse at his Dumraon residence. One of the Jersey cows gives milk over 20 litres a day.

He, however, fears riding his horse on the campaign because of the Election Commission, which could frown at him. “I am fond of horse riding. It is my passion. But first election, and then passion,” he says.

At Chausa market, around one-and-a-half kilometres from the famous battlefield where Emperor Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah Suri in 1539, Dadan’s cavalcade stops for a while. Dadan, clad in white trousers and T-shirt with a matching gamchha (towel) on his shoulder to give his rustic look, comes out of an SUV and accepts greetings from the crowd.

Age has mellowed the man down. Dadan came into focus in the 2000 Assembly elections when he campaigned with a group of nautch girls in Dumraon. He won as an Independent and later became the junior minister of the commercial taxes department in the Rabri Devi ministry. His “raids” on commercial establishments as minister became controversial and ultimately he was dropped.

At Chausa, Dadan is surrounded by his 200 and odd supporters. Enthused by the response, he starts addressing the gathering in chaste Bhojpuri: “Hum aapan log ke chaukidari karib ja, humra ke ihe jimbari del jayo (I wish to offer myself to take care of your interest, kindly provide me this opportunity).”

In his 15-minute address, Dadan takes swipe at both the JD(U) and BJP. “It’s a matter of shame that even after several decades of Independence, the government has not been able to provide safe drinking water to the people belonging to weaker sections,” he laments.

The crowd gets restless and waves hands in his support when he promises to provide drinking water facility in every household within five years of being elected as MP.

“We are aware of the skin disease because of contaminated water. Arsenic has taken a heavy toll on the rural masses. Will they ever take care of you — these outsiders? (He refers to Jagdanand and Ashwini Kumar Choubey)”

Suddenly, his cellphone rings. He sums up his speech and appeals to the voters to use their right to vote and reach the polling booth on time. But he does not forget to remind the people of the party symbol, the elephant. “Haathi chhap pad button dabana hai (press the button next to the elephant symbol),” he says.

In meeting after meeting, Dadan shows a long choti (long hair) on his head to remind people of his promises. “I will not get this choti cut as long as the promises made to the people are fulfilled. Garibi, atyachar, gundagardi, mahengayi aur berojgari ke khatam kare ke ba to humra ke jiyatee aur dekhi ki sirf 60 mahine mein ka hota,” he thunders.

For a man who wants to end gundagardi, Dadan faces 21 criminal cases and his arms licence was cancelled on the recommendation of former Buxar superintendent of police Amitabh Kumar Das.

Buxar votes on April 17

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