As Latehar goes to polls this month, there is one name on everyone’s lips — Ram — and he is not a god either.
Fighting on a Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) ticket, 47-year-old Prakash Ram is a strong contender for the Latehar seat despite the Narendra Modi wave that has engulfed the country. Equally popular among Dalits and Muslims who constitute around 68% of Latehar’s voters, Ram says he is sure they will vote for him.
“It’s the reward for my relentless service to them,” he says. “I am a socialist. I do not differentiate between castes and communities. Ram or Rahim makes no difference for me. Losing the last polls was sheer bad luck. I am winning with a record margin this time.”
The loss Ram refers to is the 2009 assembly election when the BJP’s Baidyanath Ram beat him by a small margin of 438 votes. He was with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) then.
Ram’s political journey began in 1990 as he contested his first state election on a CPM ticket from Latehar. However, it was not until his third attempt in 2005 that he tasted success on a RJD ticket.
This time, he is taking no chances, campaigning among the Muslims and the backward classes, who he knows are his best bet. Incidentally, his main opponent from the BJP is also a Ram — Braj Mohan Ram — but he hasn’t been able to cut much ice with the minority voters.
“He is an ideal leader and the fittest to be our representative in the state assembly,” says Maulana Mohammad Ahsan, one of the JVM leader’s die-hard supporters.
Such is his influence among Muslim voters that they even shout slogans of <Jai Siya Ram>, comparing him with the Hindu deity.
“Leaders come to us with allurements, but we have pledged our votes to Ram. Many of us are raising money to contribute towards his poll expenses,” said Mohammad Irshad, a first-time young voter.
The BJP is banking on Modi’s rally on November 21 to swing local votes in favour of their candidate, who is in hospital after he was injured in an accident last week.
However, Ram says, “It’s too late for Modi now.”
(With inputs from Vishal Sharma)