Saturday 16 May 2009

It’s a loss but I am not defeated

The bitter taste of defeat again। Another learning curve yet again. After the times exhilarating feeling and at other times the trauma of setbacks during the grueling campaign, the loss-on the whole- has made me richer in experience with life. I got affection and votes from every section of the society. From twenty-six thousand odd votes as independent candidate five years ago, I have now polled more than 1.51 lac votes. The loss as an independent pressed home the necessity of party based electoral politics and the real-polity of vote banks. I must give credit to Sadhu Yadav for ruining my party : he garnered a substantial chunk of RJD votes- he polled about 71 thousand votes, almost twice the margin that I lost by.My coalition’s division with the Congress proved to be my nemesis. There was obviously a Nitish wave sweeping Bihar but that played a little, if at all any, role in my debacle.I need now to sit back and rethink about my intervention. But I am happy to have been working in Champaran - my home and constituency- since the past five years, especially with my efforts to develop industry and agriculture here. The construction of my sugar mill is going on at full pace and next year we’ll begin production. That indeed will be a sugar coating to wipe out the sense of loss that one feels today.I am happy that I followed my conscience and followed the secular path. A loss does taste bitter. But, in my defeat too, there is no bitterness with anyone. Only the lingering aftertaste of peoples’ love and affection that I have been getting all through. It was a good feeling to wish best of luck to Sadhu, Sanjay and Ramashray Babu of CPM before counting commenced this morning. And, yes, I was still there to congratulate Dr Sanjay Jaiswal on victory at the end of counting. I wish our new MP the very best in his new innings as our man in parliament.
Prakash Jha.

Monday 27 April 2009

Polling is over and now the fever has changed its hue to the outcome sealed in EVMs. Debates in the constituency, I’m told, are feverish with claims and counterclaims. The electorate- 48 percent of the registered voters- has pushed their fingers on the buttons. The polling percentage should and could have been more. But extreme heat and painfully slow polling, I’m informed, turned back many a voter from the booth.
Security was almost non-existent in most parts and we are fortunate that no incident of violence took place though we received complaints of some silent rigging by BJP and also some in uniform. A few stray incidents of poll boycott too took place in protest against lack of development. We succeeded in bringing around many with my track record of work in the constituency in the last five years.
I’m quietly confident that Paschim Champaran has voted for change and development. I await the results as eagerly as you.
I could not keep you informed of the last leg of my campaign due to my hectic schedule, cut short by an unwritten writ of illegal confinement by the local administration a day before the poll.
After the period of canvassing concluded on 21st april at 5 p.m., I was away in the interiors of the constituency till late in the night when I got this shocking call that the Bettiah SP had swooped down at my Sugar Factory Office cum Guest House at Bettiah with an army of sten gun wielding jawans- as if in preparation for a police encounter with some dreaded criminal.
Right through my campaign, except when I’ve spent my nights in the villages of Raxaul, Ramgharwa and Narkatia in East Champaran district, the office cum Guest House of my under construction sugar mill at Bettiah has been my camp residence. My election office is a good two kms away. At the time of the said raid, I won’t has present in Bettiah.
The SP’s midnight raid- in one stroke- gave me a political gift from my political opponents, served through their uncivil civil servants: An FIR was lodged against me for the first time in my life!
About three dozen people waiting inside my Guest House campus to see me were arrested for ‘violating prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Cr P C’. Amazing. What the SP, on orders of the DM, called a raid was in fact an illegal trespass by the officers. They had no search warrant to enter the private property nor were the people rounded up violating the law by being inside the campus of the guest house. The cops trespassed into my room and seized 10.25 lac rupees belonging to my company-Maurya Sugars. All documentary proofs such as withdrawal certificates from Maurya Sugar account and contractor’s bills for under construction work fell on deaf ears.
The officers assumed- or were they instructed by their political masters- that the money was meant for distribution to buy off voters. How preposterous! I am constructing a Rs 250 crore sugar mill near Bettiah for which I got the final clearance on the 17th of March and construction commenced on 19th March. S. S. Engineers from Pune have been signed as contractors. It is a time bound project and my engineers and contractors have a deadline to meet. Construction is going on at full pace for which ready cash is needed.
The SP refused to acknowledge bank statements showing withdrawals by the sugar company. When I tried to reason with the District Magistrate on phone, he threatened to arrest me. They , the same night, to camouflage their dirty duty for their political masters- the state’s ruling parties- also raided the Congress candidate’s hotel and found two drunken men. They did not find anybody in the BJP office. Either, the BJP had called off its campaign and thrown in the towel or the SP was up to her eye wash.
Media reports from early morning on the 22nd April- the day before the poll- said that I had been arrested . I had not been. But the officers did succeeed in pinning me down to the confines of my Guest House. The did not allow me to move out.
I registered my protest with the SP. Soon, I stareted getting feelers that the police was “willing” to grant me bail for my bailable “offence”. I kept waiting for them but could I take all this lying down? The DM and SP were nakedly acting as agents of the BJP and Congress respectively. The SP had recently posted about two dozen police officers transferred from Sadhu Yadav’s home district of Gopalganj-where her husband is the SP- as SHOs of important police stations. We brought this to the notice of the EC.
While I waited to be arrested, I could do nothing but lodge my protest with the Election Commission and seek the removal of the DM cum Returning Officer and the SP. The two officers again swung into action after my letter to the Election Commission the night before poll and seized Rs 2.5 lac from Sadhu Yadav’s hotel but yet again, spared the BJP.
Late in the night, the town Inspector came to my Guest House and gave me bail at home. But they , by their actions, cooked up fodder for the BJP’s runour mills which worked feverishly that night with each story more bizarre than the other. The rumour which took the cake was the wildest one: That Prakash Jha has been arrested with one crore rupees cash being distributed and also fifty Bollywood starlets!!!
Many TV news channels tracked me on poll day. They did not find any item numbers. Did they? The babudom’s ploy to de-activate my support had obviously failed.
It showed at the booths the next day. The strong turn out was deterred by slow poll. My own campaign too has been slow and steady over the last five years , since losing the 2004 elections. My sincere commitment to Champaran’s development will surely reflect when the EVMs print out the result on May 16. Just wait and watch.
Meanwhile, I have another commitment: To remove the blot of my life’s first FIR against me. The officers must answer in court.
Prakash Jha.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

April 13, 2009 Easter Greetings : Let us resurrect Champaran It is an inspiring coincidence that as an important section of my electorate celebrates Christ’s resurrection, I am finding crowds full of enthusiasm and support in my effort to resurrect Champaran. I extend warm greetings to all this Easter Monday. Yesterday, on my morning walk, I visited the St Mary’s Cathedral at the Christian Quarters in Bettiah. Hundreds of families had turned up for the Holy Mass. The local Diocese had decorated the Church premises beautifully. And it was so Champaran like. The mood was just like other festivals- Eid or Diwali. The tranquil and colourful canvas that captured the eye told just one story: of oneness, peace and progress. I felt happy to be there, to greet the young and the old. The affectionate handshake, the reassuring pat or the quiet smile in acknowledgement of my greetings also told just one story: How Champaran loves its festivals. All this told yet another story : of Champaran’s intrinsic secularism. I was not the only non-christian who had come to wish our christian brethren. There were scores of Hindus and muslims. Neither was I the only Lok Sabha candidate who had come calling with wishes on this holy day. I did spot the Congress nominee Sadhu Yadav entering the church. He looked religiously radiant with a red tika on his forehead. While a congregation came out after one Mass and others went in for the second Mass, I lighted candles in front of Mother Mary’s idol near the gate, stood near by and greeted people. Christianity came to Bettiah in the eighteenth century from Nepal. The Italian Capuchin priests from Leh led a small band of Newari converts from Nepal and found refuge in Bettiah Raj. A mission was established at Bettiah and the local Raja gave land grant of two hundred bighas at Dussaiya, popularly known as Padri-Dussaiya since then. Another mission came up at Chuhari in Chanpatia block, not far from my own village Barharwa. Missions came up at Chakhni near Bagaha and at Rampur near Mainatar. The christian mission has played an important part in Champaran’s progress, especially in the field of education. Young men and women who have passed out from mission schools of Champaran have made their mark in different fields. To name just two such educational institutions, Khrist Raja High School for boys and St Theresa’s High School for girls have carved a niche for themselves both within and outside Bihar. Many leaders of the church including Arch- Bishop Benedict Osta and the present Bishop of Bettiah Victor Henry Thakur have been born and educated here. Actor Manoj Bajpai, who is part of my unit in my under production film ‘RAJNEETI’, too has studied in mission schools in Bettiah. Social-cultural traditions of Bettiah christians too have much in common with other communities of Champaran. Even marriage rituals find commonality here. Champaran’s secular fabric gets much of its rich hue from its christian community. This is no election rhetoric but just a reiteration to preserve and enrich our secular bonding. That is why we must be careful and guard against any covert or overt attempt to disturb social peace. We need this peace to march forward. We need this peace to generate means to generate employment opportunities and avenues to create wealth at home. We need to maintain our secular fabric to weave dreams to life. – Prakash Jha.

Sunday 12 April 2009

WE SHALL OVERCOME...

Election time is not the time to exploit tragedies. Neither is any other time. Tragedies need to be met with fortitude, support and understanding. Pain and suffering have to be addressed head on all the time. As a film maker, I have always tried to address social problems. But that is not enough. That is why I took the plunge and intervened both socially and politically. Economic emancipation, I believe, is the road to freedom from social inequalities and deprivation. I am proud of the large number of young people who have been lending support-shoulder to shoulder- to alleviate pain. My kar sevaks- volunteers- have been selflessly working for the last five years and have stood out with their commitment and sense of social duty on all fronts- whether in hospitals, during floods here in Champaran and more recently in the Kosi region. Prakash Jha Sewa Kendra is not about me. It is about Champaran’s sense of duty to itself. Each and every citizen needs to be awakened to this sense of belonging and service. About five dozen villagers suffered third degree burns in a devastating fire in Sukhi-Semra village under Palanwa police station of East Champaran district early Friday morning. My campaigners, who were passing by immediately put brakes to canvassing in the area, rushed to the accident spot and helped reach victims to hospitals. Raxaul’s Duncan hospital could not take in many patients. They were rushed to Motihari and Bettiah. For the last five years, my able volunteers have been doing round the clock duty at Motihari’s Sadar Hospital and at M J K Hospital in Bettiah. So when victims of the Sukhi-Semra fire accident were brought to hospital, my kar sevaks sprung into action within no time. Being alert to one’s social responsibilities helps in mitigating problems whenever they crop up. When I reached the village, the charred debris and rancid smell narrated the tale of devastation. And the agony on faces all around was heart-breaking. Being there with them in their grief, I felt, was simply sharing their tragedy. Life must move on and I’m sure the villagers will find the resilience to rehabilitate themselves. They know that I’ve been in their midst and will not abandon them. If we are sharing sorrow today, we will also rejoice together tomorrow. Through thick and thin, We together shall overcome. I read in local newspapers that supporters of the odd opponent too chipped in with help. An itinerant candidate trying his luck here too landed up. Offering solace and help, both merit appreciation. But should this sensitivity be limited to election time? Champaran is my janma-bhoomi, Mumbai has been my karm-bhoomi. I have made both my name and fortune as a film maker. But I owe to repay my debt to Champaran, my birth place. Am I here looking for stardom and riches? Do I need either? What I need to do, I am doing. I have pledged to strive towards a singular goal : Bringing a smile to Champaran’s face.
- Prakash Jha.

Friday 10 April 2009

April 09, 2009

My campaign is going on at a steady pace. A week before filing my nomination, I traveled in three assembly segments of East Champaran- Narkatia, Raxaul and Sugauli. Meeting after meeting in village after village, men, women and children have responded with warmth and affection. My five years of continuous interaction, through thick and thin, with my people is now overwhelming me with support and hope. Staying overnight in the villages gave us wonderful opportunities to share and to dream. Also to plan a better, prosperous Champaran. The cool evening breeze helps in driving away the day long fatigue of moving under the scorching sun. Moving and interacting with my own people in my own land makes me feel that elections are just a coincidental bridge between us. Since nomination day, I have been getting up very early in Bettiah and setting out for long, long morning walks through the mohallas and hamlets around. People brushing their teeth with datum-twigs- rush forward and join me. Women are increasingly coming out of homes to overtly express their support. Homes welcome me with tea and breakfast but homemakers understand that I have miles to go and don’t insist that I sit down for breakfast. They, instead, join me on my walk through their lanes and by-lanes. Children on way to school wave. The young shake hands. Senior citizens too pat my back with youthful enthusiasm. The support is assuring. The hope high and confidence boosting. It is a developing into a mutually emotional bond. After these long morning walks, I venture out into far flung villages of neighbouring assembly segments. I have so far toured Nautan segment and Maujhaulia block of Bettiah, apart from parts of Chanpatia. Poll Day is still two weeks away. My opponents too, I’m told, are stepping up their campaign. My supporters tell me rumour mongering may be a weapon of my opponents to confuse my mass of support. But I trust my people sense of judgment.
- Prakash Jha.

Wednesday 8 April 2009

First April 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009:
The day of filing my nomination। I got up early as usual। Read the morning papers over tea. BJP’s Sanjay Jaiswal nomination the day before was there. State BJP leaders Sushil Kumar Modi, Nand Kishore Yadav and Ashwini Chaubey were here to buck up their young candidate. The newspapers carried stories of their public meeting. I had been berated at the delay in the construction of my sugar mill here. They conveniently forgot that final clearances were given only on the 17th of March and engineers and contractors have got down to work without any delay. That’s ok. It’s election time and even my efforts to bring prosperity to Champaran will not find appreciation with my opponents. That too is ok. My sincerity is for people to judge.
After a small bowl of fresh curd for breakfast, I set out for the Collectorate to file my nominations. The model code allowed me an entourage of five. We were one less.
I got in early, before 10 O’clock : before my enthused people could join me in a procession and violate the model code in their zest। I waited for an hour for the Collector Dilip Kumar- the Returning officer- to arrive. After a while, the CPM candidate, Ramashray Prasad Singh walked in with his comrades- including Ali Ahmad of the CPI and Mohammad Saidulah, an Advocate. Comrade Singh and I shared a warm hug. Do really wish all opponents fight this electoral battle with equal spirit and sportsmanship. That would really be good : A Hip Hip Hurray to Democracy.
Filing papers went off smoothly। As I came down the stairs, RJD’s Raghunath Jha the candidate from our coalition for the Vamikinagar seat was walking up। We met half way, shook hands and wished each other.
The waiting media had questions for me. But none on serious election issues. All they wanted to know whether film stars-particularly Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgan, Manoj Bajpai , Arjun Rampal and Nana Patekar, all part of my team in my under production film ‘RAJNEETI’- would be coming to campaign. Now, election is serious business, not entertainment. No doubt Katrina and others would add colour and glamour to the campaign canvas. But do I really need them here, much that they are eager to come?
FOR ME, MY PEOPLE ARE MY STARS IN CHAMPARAN.
And how spontaneously jubilant and encouraging were my heroes and heroines- more than a hundred thousand of them- at the public rally at Bara Ramna maidan soon after. Their response gave me much hope and confidence. Leaders from our coalition- Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav and Shri Ram Vilas Paswan- were happy to see this mass of support. Lalujee had good words for my deeds and extended full support.
Sadhu is here, as you now, on the Congress ticket. But Lalujee is with me. His message is clear : NO Kin. No Kinship. Just Development.
And development is my sincere effort. I have set out to develop my Champaran. I need your vote. Each vote will add to attain our goal of a prosperous Champaran. And it is already forging for me a wide kinship transcending caste, creed and gender. Votes are becoming a cementing bond.
The nomination process and the public meeting went off really well. And then, some one reminded me, it’s April ONE- All Fools Day.
Am I a fool to jump into politics? I HOPE NOT…….. YOU tell me………………
- Prakash Jha.