Ex-IPS pledges jobs for all in Maoist-hit Palamu

  • B Vijay Murty, Hindustan Times, Daltonganj Daltonganj
  • Updated: Nov 22, 2014 13:16 IST

As its superintendent of police in 1992, former Indian Police Service officer PK Siddharth claims he made Palamu a crime-free district. Twenty four years later, he is back to this remote, backward district in northwest Jharkhand promising to free it of the rampant unemployment.

He had the option of joining any national or the regional party and fulfil his political ambition. But carrying his own set of principles, Siddharth did not find one which was really serving the cause of the people or for that matter carrying any ethos or ideology.

The 69-year-old former IPS officer launched Bharatiya Suraaj Dal (BSD) a year ago with its headquarters in state capital Ranchi and decided to fight the assembly elections from Daltonganj.

Assembly elections in Jharkhand will be held in five phases between November 25 and December 20. Daltonganj goes to polls in the first phase on November 25 and the votes will be counted on December 23.

After 2004 and 2009, this will be the third assembly elections in Jharkhand, which has thrown up fractured mandates and seen political instability under coalition rules since its creation in 2000. No party has ever got a majority in the tribal state that has seen nine different governments and President's rule on three occasions.

Cleaning toilets
The BSD had turned heads and hit headlines when it asked aspirants interested in becoming 'Aapt-I' members — eligible to hold party position at the panchayat level — to clean 10 toilets and get certificates for cleaning them well from the owners.

The other option, to rise in the party hierarchy, was to read Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography and make it through an interview to prove that they had read and understood it.

The party struggled to attract membership initially but it now boasts of a large number of professionals, who have cleaned toilets to become its members, as its members said Siddharth.

When asked why the emphasis on cleaning toilets, he says, "In cleaning toilets, one does not really clean the toilets; they clean their egos, which is very detrimental to public life", adding "one also learns the dignity of labour".

Fighting odds
Politically sensitive, highly affected by left wing extremism, underdeveloped and starved of better communication facilities, Daltonganj has always been the centre of politics for heavyweight leaders.

Among others, his opponents include state rural development and labour welfare minister, KN Tripathi, and state Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Girinath Singh, a three time MLA.

The odds are against this former IPS, who opted to move out of service while he was posted as the additional director general of police in Tripura. But he has kept his spirits alive.

He alleges that his opponents are spending big money — both in cash and kind to allure and influence voters. Cash starved, his party has been unable to even hire enough vehicles to reach out to the voters across the large constituency.

"This election is a kind of schooling for me," says Siddharth while campaigning with a handful of supporters, including a senior journalist, a school teacher, a rickshaw puller, two transgenders and a couple of college students, in Daltonganj's busy vegetable market.

"The country needs new electoral reforms. I am going to fight for it after the polls. More than winning the election, my endeavor is to enlighten the people on their voting rights and the responsibilities their chosen leaders owe to them," he said.

His wife and daughter have come down from Delhi to campaign for him.

"The ignorant masses here are selling their votes," says his daughter, Prerna Siddharth, a journalism student, as she urges voters not to fall into the traps of false promises.

People in their late forties and fifties are familiar with Siddharth's work as the local SP.

"I found a criminal, whom I had arrested, coming to me and pledging his vote," says Siddharth.

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