Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad have been aggressively hitting the campaign trail in Jharkhand despite poor health in a bid to keep the BJP out of the eastern Indian state that has completed three of the five-phase assembly elections.
Soren, fondly called Guruji by his supporters, has attended 171 election rallies and meetings, asking people to vote for the JMM, which is contesting 79 of the 81 seats in the state.
The 70-year-old leader has also been battling illness and has been in and out of hospitals frequently. In the recent past, he was admitted to hospitals in Ranchi, Chennai and Delhi after complaining of chest pains and respiratory problems.
However, the party says he is now fine and raring to go. “Guruji had been to Apollo in Chennai for routine check-ups two months ago. The doctors have approved his hectic tours during campaigns and given him the tips on how to keep well,” said party secretary Vinod Pandey, who accompanies Soren on his trips.
The BJP has proven to be a stiff challenge to the ruling JMM in Jharkhand, where it presents the alternative of a stable government in the state that has seen nine chief ministers and been under President’s Rule three times after it was carved out in 2000.
Soren has campaigned with vigour, calling out to voters — particularly the tribal population that comprises about 30% of Jharkhand’s population — to keep the BJP out, aided by his chief minister-son Hemant Soren, who has spearheaded the party’s campaign and addressed as many as 220 rallies.
Unlike the JMM leader, RJD chief Lalu Prasad is the sole star campaigner for his party that is seeking to increase its tally from the five seats it has in the assembly. The RJD is contesting 20 seats in the polls.
The Bihar leader has been a frequent flier to Jharkhand, addressing 39 rallies so far, as he battles a BJP wave sweeping the country after back-to-back electoral victories.
Lalu, who has also not been keeping too well in the recent past, has said if the situation demanded, the secular parties would forge a post-poll alliance.
The 66-year-old leader’s family is concerned about his health particularly after his heart surgery at Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute in August, although the party said there was nothing to worry about.
“There are no complaints,” said his personal assistant Bhola Prasad Yadav. “Laluji doesn’t miss check-up schedules at AIIMS.”