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.