Lalu Prasad, the irrepressible chief of the RJD, has set a record of sorts by addressing over 200 election rallies across the state in his inimitable style during the ongoing staggered Bihar election.
Lalu, in fact, is far ahead of other leaders.
“Lalu has entered the record books with a double century last week itself. He will address around 250 election rallies by the time the over-month-long campaign ends on Tuesday evening” for the fifth and final phase of Bihar assembly polls, an aide said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Chandeshwar Prasad Singh said that though Lalu Prasad had had major heart surgeries in 2014, he is as energetic as in the past.
“Laluji has addressed six to ten rallies in a day. He was in high demand by the candidates of the grand alliance of RJD, JD-U and Congress,” he said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was not too far behind .
“Nitish Kumar has also addressed 200-odd election rallies till date,” JD-U leader Nawal Sharma said.
Sharma said Nitish Kumar addressed five to six rallies daily at the start of the campaign. But later, he has been addressing seven to eight rallies every day.
Both Lalu and Nitish are star campaigners of the grand alliance.
BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi, a former deputy chief minister, has so far addressed close to 200 election rallies. Former chief minister and president of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAW) Jitan Ram Manjhi, an ally of the BJP-led NDA, has also addressed over 150 election rallies.
Acknowledged as a master orator by followers and political adversaries alike, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed 25 rallies as the star campaigner of the BJP-led NDA — the most by any recent prime minister.
No prime minister before Modi has ever visited Bihar more than two-three times during assembly elections in the past. Modi addressed four rallies in the state in July and August even before the announcement of the assembly polls, with two official visits during the same period.
Erstwhile prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed a few rallies during the 2000 Bihar assembly polls while his successor Manmohan Singh addressed two or three rallies in the 2005 assembly elections, and a similar number in the 2010 polls.
RJD leader Chandeshwar Prasad Singh said Lalu Prasad had so far used a chopper for campaigning. “It’s indicative of his hard-working style, upbeat mood and unbeatable energy to reach out to the people in far away places,” he added.
Singh said that other than Lalu Prasad, his eldest daughter Misa Bharti and his younger son Tejasvi Yadav, who too are key campaigners for the grand alliance, have addressed over 100 election rallies.
As for the other campaigners, they are far behind.
BJP president Amit Shah has addressed close to 100 election rallies and another BJP ally LJP chief and union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has addressed the same number of election rallies.
Nearly a dozen union ministers, mostly BJP leaders, have also addressed dozens of election rallies.
At the bottom of the pack are Congress president Sonia Gandhi — who has addressed six election rallies — and her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi — who has addressed 15 rallies.
Barring Left leaders, politicians of all hues in Bihar hired private helicopters to reach out to voters across the sprawling state of nearly 105 million people.
This is a far cry from the times when most political leaders, barring those at the very top, travelled by rail or road to connect to voters and to campaign.
According to leaders from different parties, more than two dozen helicopters from private firms have been pressed into service to ferry the star campaigners. Most helicopters have come from aviation firms based in New Delhi and Mumbai. The average cost of hiring a multi-engine helicopter is Rs.2 lakh for a flying hour.
The polling for the fifth and final phase of the 243-seat Bihar assembly election will take place on November 5, with the counting slated for November 8.